Packed tour bus crashes in Portugal, killing 14

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The Independent Online

A packed tour bus careered off a highway in northern Portugal and rolled down a steep ravine Saturday, killing 14 passengers and injuring 24 others, six of them seriously.

A packed tour bus careered off a highway in northern Portugal and rolled down a steep ravine Saturday, killing 14 passengers and injuring 24 others, six of them seriously.

The bus came off the IP-3 highway near Santa Comba Dao, a rural town about 120 miles north of Lisbon, at about 8pm, media reports said.

Most of the passengers on the bus, which was returning after dark to the city of Viseu following a day-trip to a Roman Catholic shrine at Fatima, were over 50 years old but included a 13-year-old girl, cable news channel SIC reported.

The bus came off the road on a bend at the bottom of a steep hill and tumbled down a a ravine about 100 feet deep, crushing its roof. The road was wet after heavy rain, according to reports. No other vehicle was said to be involved.

The single-decker bus came to rest in a garden next to a stream. Some of the dead were thrown out of the vehicle as it flipped over, SIC said.

Television footage showed crews using a fork-lift truck and a frontloader to right the vehicle. Rescue workers with hand-held lights climbed through the wreck, looking for bodies.

Officials told TSF radio 120 rescue workers with 32 ambulances were at the scene.

Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Residents of Santa Comba Dao in recent months have staged numerous protests about the IP-3, claiming its tight bends are dangerous when wet.

They held a protest on on Friday to urge the government, which is responsible for highway maintenance, to improve the road.

The accident came three weeks after a double-decker tour bus and three cars fell into a river in northern Portugal when a bridge collapsed, killing 59 people.

The government accepted blame for that accident.

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