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45 dead after bus heading to Easter weekend church falls off bridge in South Africa; An 8-year-old boy is the only survivor

BOTSWANA, South Africa — A bus carrying worshipers on a long-distance journey from Botswana to an Easter weekend religious gathering in South Africa fell off a bridge at a mountain pass on Thursday and burst into flames as it hit the rocky ground, killing at least 45 people, authorities said. . The only survivor was an 8-year-old boy who was receiving medical attention for serious injuries.

The Limpopo provincial government said the bus went off the Mmamatlakala Bridge in northern South Africa and fell 50 meters (164 feet) into a ravine before bursting into flames.

Search operations were ongoing, the provincial government said, but many bodies were burned beyond recognition and trapped inside the vehicle, while others had been thrown from the bus.

The accident occurred near the town of Mokopane, which is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of the South African capital, Pretoria.

Hours after the accident, smoke seeped from the mangled and burned remains beneath the concrete bridge. Authorities said the driver apparently lost control and the bus crashed into barriers along the side of the bridge and then over the edge. The driver was one of the dead.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said all the victims appeared to be from Botswana and were headed to the town of Moria in Limpopo for a popular Easter weekend pilgrimage that draws hundreds of thousands of worshipers from South Africa and neighboring countries. They follow Zion. Christian Church.

Ramaphosa had called Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi to offer his condolences and said the South African government would do everything it could to help, according to a statement from Ramaphosa’s office.

South Africa’s Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga was in Limpopo province for a road safety campaign and changed her plans to visit the crash site after hearing the “devastating news”, the national Department of Transport said. He said an investigation into the cause of the accident is underway and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

The South African government often warns motorists to be careful during the Easter holidays, which is a particularly busy and dangerous time for road travel. More than 200 people died in road accidents over the Easter weekend last year.

Just a day before the bus crash, the South African government asked people to be very careful on Thursday and Friday due to the high volume of road travelers expected to travel to Moria.

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