LA PAZ – The death toll from an accident involving a bus that plunged into a 200-meter (656-foot) ravine on a highway linking La Paz and Bolivia’s Yungas area has been revised downward to 18, with 31 other people injured, La Paz traffic accident division chief Col. Victorino Torres said on Thursday.
Seventeen passengers were pronounced dead at the scene and another died on arrival at a hospital, Torres said.
Initial reports from the fire department put the death toll at 20, with 30 other people injured, in the accident at a site 75 kilometers (46 miles) from La Paz.
The Sindicato Trans 24 de Agosto company bus went off the highway Wednesday night while heading to the coca-growing center of Asunta.
The accident occurred on a route known popularly as the “Highway of Death” due to the frequent accidents involving buses and trucks that plunge into ravines on the narrow, winding road.
“The injured people said the brakes went out on the bus and the driver and his assistants jumped off the vehicle,” a motorist who transported two of the injured to a La Paz hospital told Bolivian media.
Darkness and the rough terrain in the mountainous area slowed the rescue and recovery operation, Torres said.
A total of 14 bodies have been taken to La Asunta, where they will be buried, the police chief said.
Several of the survivors are listed in critical condition at La Paz’s Arco Iris Hospital, Torres said.
The government has been trying for years to reduce the number of traffic accidents in Bolivia.
President Evo Morales’s administration enacted a law in January 2010 that cracked down on bus drivers caught working drunk, inexperienced drivers and drivers who work excessive hours.
The measure’s goal is to reduce accidents, which kill an average of 1,000 people annually, according to International Automobile Federation figures, in this Andean nation. EFE