JOHANNESBURG: Twenty-five people died yesterday when a bus rolled down a steep embankment in South Africa's coastal Eastern Cape province, the country's transport minister said. "Reports indicate that the driver lost control of the bus, which subsequently rolled down a steep embankment, leaving 25 dead and approximately 62 injured," Fikile Mbalula said in a statement. "To lose so many lives in a single accident is devastating and shocking."

The bus was carrying more than 80 mainly elderly people travelling between Butterworth town and a settlement named Chebe. The minister said most of the victims were going to cash-in their government-issued social grants. President Cyril Ramaphosa said the dead were mainly pensioners and young students. "This tragedy leaves our country deeply saddened and forces us to focus yet again on the need for transport providers and other road users to exercise care and consideration on our roads," said the president.

"From this incident we see the need for us to be especially considerate towards elderly persons and children who depend on others to be conveyed around communities and the country," he added. The crash was the deadliest accident in the province since 2015 when 35 people lost their lives. The bus was travelling on a gravel road near the village of Qolweni when it overturned. "The driver lost control of the vehicle and it rolled down a very steep embankment," provincial transport department spokesman Unathi Binqose said.

Binqose said checks would be carried out if the bus had been roadworthy as "it may be a contributing factor". Despite having one of the most developed road networks on the continent, South Africa has among the highest rates of road accidents in the region owing to speeding and poor maintenance of some vehicles and roads. The Road Traffic Management Corporation data shows that more than 14,000 people died in road crashes on South African roads in 2017. - AFP