LIMA – Seventeen people were killed when a bus scheduled to travel to the northern city of Chiclayo caught fire in Lima, the Peruvian Attorney General’s Office said on Monday.
Police said that seven survivors were being treated at nearby medical centers.
The tragedy occurred around 7:30 pm Sunday at a makeshift terminal in the district of San Martin de Porres when a fire erupted in the rear of the double-decker bus and the passengers found themselves trapped inside.
Survivors said they noticed a strong fuel odor and then saw smoke coming out of the motor. Within seconds, the flames were reaching the upper deck of the bus.
Unable to open the closed doors, most of the passengers perished, while a few managed to climb out the windows to safety.
Among the survivors is a 7-year-old girl whose mother was apparently killed in the blaze. The youngster received medical attention before passing to the care of officials from the women’s affairs ministry.
“The bodies are burned. We hope the subsequent investigations can determine the cause of this lamentable fire,” Lima fire chief Mario Casaretto said, describing the survivors as suffering from “very serious” burns and smoke inhalation.
The AG Office said that prosecutors and medical examiners removed the bodies of the 17 victims during the wee hours of Monday and transported them to the Lima central morgue for autopsies.
The charred vehicle, operated by the company Sajy Bus, was to be inspected by Christian Amado, who also planned to interrogate 51-year-old driver Jose Antonio Quintana Barturen and his assistant, Rodolfo Ivan Silva Coronado, 46, who were detained after the fire.
Neither man was hurt in the blaze.
Sajy Bus issued a statement apologizing for the accident and pledging “unconditional and unrestricted support” for the investigation.
“We are waiting for the institutions in charge to provide us with the official list of those killed and injured,” the company said, promising to support victims and their families.
Eight fire engines were needed to put out the fire at the makeshift station of Fiori, which sits across the street from Terminal Norte, the hub for bus service to points north of Lima.