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Bus Plunges Off Guatemala Cliff; 34 Dead

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The Associated Press
Monday, October 9, 2006; 9:06 PM

GUATEMALA CITY -- An overcrowded passenger bus driving in heavy rain plunged off a cliff in northern Guatemala, killing at least 34 people, officials said Monday.

The bus was driving on a curvy highway Sunday night in the city of Chiantla, 85 miles northwest of the capital Guatemala City when it crashed, officials said.

"The bodies were scattered, some lying in the grass, others on rocks, and some in the river that runs through the valley," said rescue worker Walter Gomez, who added that rescuers had to use axes to chop through the roof of the bus to reach victims.

As of late Monday, rescue teams had recovered 34 bodies, said Abizai Lopez, an official at the main police station in the nearby city of Huehuetenango

Six people were pulled alive from the wreckage, but one died on the way to the hospital.

Among the dead were four minors, said Domingo Funes, a firefighter on the scene.

Survivors said the bus, with an estimated capacity of 45 to 50 passengers, was overcrowded at the time of the crash. Firefighters estimated the bus plunged about 330 feet into a valley.

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© 2006 The Associated Press

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