Girl, 8, only survivor of bus crash that kills 45 on South Africa’s deadly roads

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The wreckage off a bus lays in a ravine a day after it plunged off a bridge on the Mmamatlakala mountain pass between Mokopane and Marken, around 300km (190 miles) north of Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 29. (AP)

MMAMATLAKALA, South Africa, March 30, (AP): An 8-year-old girl was the lone survivor after a bus full of pilgrims making their way to a popular Easter festival in rural South Africa slammed into a bridge on a mountain pass and plunged into a ravine before bursting into flames, killing all 45 others onboard.
It was a tragic reminder of how deadly South Africa’s roads become during the Easter period, when millions crisscross the country during the long holiday weekend. Authorities repeatedly warn motorists of the danger and had issued multiple messages urging caution just a day before Thursday’s horrific crash.
The girl somehow survived after the bus carrying worshippers from neighboring Botswana careened off the bridge, fell more than 150 feet (50 meters) and caught fire as it hit the rocks below, according to authorities.
The girl was in a stable condition in the hospital after being admitted with serious injuries and was “in safe hands,” an official with the local health department said Friday. Details of her injuries were not released.
Forensic investigators retrieved what they believed were 34 of the 45 bodies but couldn’t be certain of the exact number, reflecting the gruesome nature of the crash. Many of the victims trapped inside the bus were burned beyond recognition, authorities said.
Dr Phophi Ramathuba, an official with the Limpopo provincial health department, said only nine of the bodies recovered were likely to be identifiable.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the victims, who appeared to all be from Botswana, were on their way to the rustic town of Moria in Limpopo province for the Easter weekend pilgrimage that attracts hundreds of thousands of followers of the Zion Christian Church.
The church has its headquarters in Moria and it was the first time the full pilgrimage was being held since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramathuba said South African authorities had asked church leaders from Botswana to come and help identify the victims.

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