At least 37 dead as Malaysian bus plunges into ravine
At least 37 people are confirmed dead after a bus tumbled into a deep ravine Wednesday in Malaysia’s worst-ever road accident, an official said.
The toll could climb further because 16 other passengers were injured, with hospitals reporting some in critical condition.
Authorities said the bus was carrying 53 passengers when it went off a swerving road and plunged down a steep 70-metre slope in the Genting Highlands, famed for a flashy gambling and entertainment resort about an hour’s drive from the capital Kuala Lumpur.
“Thirty-seven are dead – 13 women and 24 men,” Christopher Chong, a fire official at the scene, told reporters by phone.
Chong said the bus was heading downhill when the driver apparently lost control on a bend. The driver was among those killed, reports said.
They said most of the passengers were Malaysians, but staff at Hospital Kuala Lumpur said injured brought there after the crash included a Thai man and a Bangladeshi man.
Local hospitals said several of the injured arrived in critical condition.
Lines of rescuers clinging to an orange rope for support were seen pulling injured victims out of the bus shortly after the accident, which occurred around 3pm.
The bus was lying on its side in thick vegetation.
The rugged terrain forced rescuers to rig up an improvised pulley system to raise bodies and injured victims in a time-consuming operation, media reports said.
Police dogs also scoured the undergrowth for any survivors that may have been flung out of the bus, they said.
Police said the bus was part of a regular line that ferries visitors between the capital and the hill resort, popular with the country’s ethnic Chinese minority and foreign tourists.
The resort, whose bright lights can be seen from the city at night, is operated by Malaysian gaming firm Genting, one of the country’s largest companies.
Genting Highlands includes the country’s sole casino and attracts more than 20 million visitors per year.
It is currently undergoing a reportedly three billion ringgit (US$900 million) refurbishment that includes a Twentieth Century Fox theme park set to open in 2016.
The road leading up the Genting Highlands, however, is notoriously steep and winding.
Two Indian tourists died and 22 other people were hurt when their bus overturned in the area last year.
The toll in Wednesday’s accident makes it the country’s deadliest road transport tragedy.
Previously, Malaysia’s worst such accident was a similar tragedy in the Cameron Highlands, another hill resort area, that took 27 lives. Most of those passengers were Thai.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has banned gambling but allows non-Muslims to bet at the casino in the Genting Highlands, as well as on horse-racing and private lotteries.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians, many of who are non-Muslims, account for roughly a third of the country’s 28 million people.