In Fundacion, Colombia, 465 miles from Bogota, at least 32 children were killed on Sunday when an overcrowded bus returning from a church service caught fire, according to the Associated Press.
The Colombian Red Cross told Agence France-Presse another 25 people, including one adult, were injured and seriously burned.
According to AFP, the police had initially blamed the fire on mechanical problems. Fundacion Mayor Luz Stella Duran told reporters that survivors reported the bus driver was handling a container filled with gasoline aboard the bus. Duran also told AFP the driver had vanished and angry locals had gone to his home to throw rocks at his windows.
Major Eduardo Velez, coordinator of Magdalena province’s emergency response corps, told Reuters the driver was attempting to start a broken down engine by pouring fuel on it, which he obtained through the floor of the vehicle’s cabin.
“There was a canister of gasoline inside the vehicle. The fire spread very fast,” Reuters quoted Velez as saying.
The bus was owned by a private transport company and was used during the week to take children to and from school.
President Juan Manuel Santos was traveling to Fundacion to console relatives of the victims.