South Africa Coach Crash: Dozens died in bus just a week ago

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YESTERDAY'S CRASH was the latest in a spate of similar accidents over the past two weeks in South Africa.

Tourism industry operators fear visitors may be deterred by the accident, in which at least 27 British tourists died. They also predict a big rise in insurance premiums.

Last week 11 passengers in a luxury bus were killed and 36 injured when it collided with a lorry. Many of the victims were holidaymakers. Fifteen people died in a crash in the Eastern Cape on Saturday and six died the same day in another crash. The day before, 35 were injured in the Eastern Cape.

Chris Du Toit, executive director of the Association for Southern African Travel Agents, said it was tragic such accidents were so frequent. He said the issue was of great concern to the association, as it would severely harm an already hard-pressed tourism industry.

"It is particularly disquieting to note that this last accident has taken the lives of foreign tourists, since this could well spell the start of hikes in insurance premiums and requests for greater guarantees."

Mr Du Toit said that before the first Planet Hollywood bomb attack in Cape Town in August last year, there had already been a small drop in the number of foreigners visiting the country. Figures for overseas holidaymakers had shown a decline of 0.3 per cent during the first seven months of 1998 compared with the previous year. Overall overseas arrivals, which includes business travellers, had dropped by 0.48 per cent.

The Department of Transport is to meet bus operators on Thursday to discuss the spate of accidents. Mike Mabasa, spokesman for Dullah Omar, the Transport Minister, said there was no doubt the latest accident would have some negative effects but it was too early to forecast exactly what they would be.

Moira Winslow, head of the Drive Alive campaign, urged the reinstatement of annual roadworthy tests for buses, and an effort to fill the 8,000 vacant traffic-officer positions in the country. While buses have always been seen as a more reliable and cheaper form of transport than South Africa's notorious minibus taxis, they have also proved deadly, especially recently.

In July 1989 at least 55 people died and 18 were injured in what was probably South Africa's worst bus accident, a smash on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.

The bus, which was travelling on a gravel road, plunged down an embankment.