BOGOTA – The death toll from the bus fire in Fundacion, a town on Colombia’s Atlantic coast, has risen to 32, with at least 30 children among the victims, officials said.
The bus caught fire around 12:30 p.m. Sunday and was completely engulfed by flames in a matter of minutes just outside Fundacion, which is in Magdalena province.
The bus was carrying 43 people who had attended a religious service and were returning home.
Officials released different casualty figures for the accident, but all the versions put the death toll at between 30 and 32.
At least 12 people were taken to Fernando Troconis University Hospital in Santa Marta, the capital of Magdalena province.
“We have 32 dead,” of whom 30 are children and one is an adult, Magdalena emergency management office director Maj. Eduardo Velez Soto told Efe by telephone, citing the report submitted to prosecutors.
The children’s bodies will be taken to the coroner’s office in the city of Barranquilla for identification, Magdalena Provincial Emergency Management Council coordinator Luis Barraza said, adding that many of the bodies were completely burned.
Investigators plan to use dental records and DNA samples to complete the identification process, which could take several weeks, Barraza said.
The bus, which belonged to a Barranquilla-based company, was hired by an evangelical church to take a group to Sunday services.
The fire broke out as the bus approached Fundacion, a town located 96 kilometers (nearly 60 miles) from Santa Marta in a banana-growing region.
Investigators are trying to determine whether a mechanical problem started the fire and if the bus was hauling contraband gasoline.