Mexican bus crashes down ravine, kills 57

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MALTRATA, Mexico, Apr 18 (Reuters) An overloaded tour bus veered off a mountain road, crashed through a metal barrier and tumbled deep into a ravine in eastern Mexico killing 57 people.

Local officials said there were three survivors of the crash, one of the worst in Mexico in recent years. After a full day of searching the scrub around the twisted wreckage the death count was lowered to 57 from 63 earlier.

''Earlier we talked about 63 dead but we did a recount and this (57) is the official figure we have now,'' civil protection official Ranulfo Marquez told local radio.

Easter is one of the most important annual holidays in Catholic Mexico, and highways were badly clogged on Sunday and yesterday as millions returned home from religious festivities.

The bus went off the road yesterday on a steep stretch of highway linking Mexico City with the Gulf of Mexico port city of Veracruz.

Television pictures showed ambulance workers carrying bloodied bodies away from the wreckage, which was strewn about in pieces. The roof lay upturned and almost intact.

Corpses were lined up on black plastic sheets on the floor of a makeshift morgue in the nearby town of Maltrata, and masked health workers were transferring them to coffins.

The dead, including some 10 children, were all Mexicans on a chartered bus, which rescue services said was overloaded with passengers. The crash could have been caused by either brake failure or driver negligence, police said.

The crash happened near the Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano and Mexico's tallest mountain at over 18,300 feet (5,600 metres).

REUTERS PDS PM0624

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