At least 16 dead and 12 injured as passenger bus falls off ravine in central Philippines

A passenger bus lost control while negotiating a downhill curve in a central Philippine mountain village and plunged into a deep ravine, killing at least 16 people and injuring 12 others, officials said Wednesday.

Eight of the wounded in the accident, which happened Tuesday afternoon in Hamtic town in the province of Antique, were in critical condition at a local hospital, officials said.

The air-conditioned bus, which came from the nearby Iloilo province, was maneuvering through the accident-prone mountain road when the driver, who was among those killed, lost control. The bus smashed onto a concrete railing then fell into the ravine, officials said.

“The driver was repeatedly sounding his horn because he had apparently lost control of the bus before it plummeted into the ravine,” Ronniel Pabustan, an Antique provincial crisis responder, told The Associated Press by telephone, citing accounts by some of the passengers.

Dozens of rescuers, including police, army troops and provincial emergency responders, worked to extricate the victims from the wreckage. They used stretchers and ropes to bring the victims up the ravine in an hourslong rescue and retrieval work that dragged late into the night, Pabustan said.

“It’s so tragic and painful because this happened close to Christmas,” Pabustan said, adding that among the dead was a baby, who remained unidentified.

The search for victims ended overnight but provincial officials urged village leaders to alert emergency personnel if they find any more victims in the site of the accident, a thickly wooded area in the bottom of the ravine.

Deadly road accidents are common in the Philippines because of weak enforcement of traffic laws, dilapidated vehicles and dangerous road conditions, including inadequate safety signs and barriers in mountain roads and far-flung provinces.