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Guatemala bus crash leaves 43 dead, dozens injured

At least 43 people have been killed and dozens injured after a bus plunged off a steep cliff in western Guatemala. Survivors told local media the bus had been overcrowded.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez declared three days of mourning on Monday after at least 43 people were killed in one of the nation's deadliest road incidents in year. A further 40 people were taken to hospital for treatment.

The bus went off a cliff on a hairpin bend, falling at least 100 meters (330 feet) into a river at the bottom of a ravine in the municipality of San Martin Jilotepeque, 64 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital, Guatemala City.

"Forty people were confirmed dead at the site of the accident and three more at the hospital," Cecilio Chacaj, a fire department spokesman, told reporters.

Six children were among the dead, the news agency Reuters reported.

Rescuers were forced to use cables between the banks of the river to pull victims from the wreckage. They were assisted by local residents who rushed to the scene.

The cause of the accident remains unclear, although a government statement confirmed that an investigation was underway.

Rescue workers and survivors reported that the bus had been overcapacity at the time of the accident.

Guatemala has the fifth highest rate of road accidents in Latin America, with 20 in 100,000 inhabitants dying in crashes.

The last major bus accident was in 2008 when an overcrowded bus slipped off a highway and down a 15-meter slope around 65 kilometers southeast of Guatemala city, killing 53 people.

ccp/kms (AFP, Reuters)