At least 48 people have died in a grisly crash outside Lima, Peru, after a tractor-trailer slammed into a bus, sending the coach careening down a rocky cliff to a beach 260 feet below, Peruvian authorities say.
The accident happened Tuesday on a stretch of mountainous road known as "Devil's Curve" in the remote area of Pasamayo, about 45 miles north of Lima. The Pacific Ocean road is considered one of the most dangerous in Peru.
“It's very painful for us as a country to suffer an accident of this magnitude,” Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said in a statement.
Twitter photos posted by Peruvian police show rescue workers looking for survivors along craggy rocks and on the beach, where the battered bus rested upside down near the shore line.
Transportation Minister Bruno Giuffra said initial reports indicated both vehicles involved were traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the crash. As rescue operations continued late into the night, authorities announced a suspect had been detained for allegedly robbing belongings of victims.
The bus was carrying 57 passengers to Peru's capital when it was struck by a tractor trailer shortly before noon and plunged down the slope, said Claudia Espinoza with Peru's voluntary firefighter brigade.
The serpentine road where the accident happened has no safety fences and is often laced with heavy fog coming off the nearby ocean, according to dangerousroads.org, which lists the roadway as "extremely dangerous."
"The road is intended for heavy vehicles. Extremely dangerous with fog, between April and December. The road was bypassed by a new road called Ruta nacional PE-1. But the heavy traffic is still using this road," according to dangerousroads.org's analysis.
No road leads directly to the beach, complicating rescue efforts, Espinoza said, though police and firefighters managed to transport five survivors with serious injuries to a nearby hospital.
Traffic accidents are common along Peru's roadways; More than 2,600 people were killed in 2016. More than three dozen died when three buses and a truck collided in 2015 on the main coastal highway. Twenty people were killed in November when a bus plunged off a bridge into a river in the southern Andes.
The passengers in Tuesday's crash included many who were returning to Lima after celebrating the New Year's holiday with family outside the city, Espinoza said.
Peru's deadliest traffic crash on record happened in 2013 when a makeshift bus carrying 51 Quechua Indians back from a party in the southeastern region of the country fell off a cliff into a river, killing everyone on board.