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Tunisia bus accident death toll rises as public denounce 'roads of death'

The passengers were allegedly on a school trip [Twitter]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2019

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At least 26 people were killed when their bus careered into a ravine in the northwest of Tunisia, officials said in a new toll.

The death toll from a bus accident in the northwest of Tunisia has increased to 26, officials said on Monday.

The health ministry said 17 people were also injured when their bus careered into a ravine in a mountainous region popular with Tunisian tourists.

The disaster was one of the most deadly accidents in a country whose poor road safety record has sparked criticism of officials.

All those aboard the bus were Tunisian, the ministry said.

The bus had set off from Tunis towards the picturesque northern mountain town of Ain Draham, a popular autumn destination for domestic visitors.

Social media users suggested all those on board were part of a school trip.

The interior ministry had earlier reported the deaths of 22 out of the 43 people aboard, saying the bus had "fallen into a ravine after crashing through an iron barrier".

The health ministry said later that four more passengers had died of their injuries.

An AFP team that visited the site saw the twisted remains of the bus in the ravine near a river bed, surrounded by scattered bodies.

The top of the bus appeared to have been torn apart and seats were strewn across the site.

President Kais Saied and outgoing Prime Minister Youssef Chahed later visited the site.

Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi told a private radio station Mosaique FM that the "unfortunate accident took place in a difficult area" and just after the bus had taken a "sharp bend".

A civil defence official, speaking on state television, said there had previously been deadly accidents at the same spot

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident and forensic experts are investigating, but Tunisia's poorly-maintained roads have a reputation for being dangerous.

The World Health Organisation in 2015 reported that Tunisia had the second-worst traffic death rate per capita in North Africa, behind only war-torn Libya.

The accident triggered renewed public anger over what one social media user called the country's "roads of death”.

Experts blamed run-down roads, reckless driving and poor vehicle maintenance for a rise in accidents the following year.

The authorities recognise the scale of the problem but have said the country's security challenges, including militant attacks, have kept them from giving it more attention.

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