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South Africa bus crash: girl, 8, is sole survivor as ravine plunge kills 45 pilgrims

A drone picture shows rescuers working at the site of the bus crash near Mamatlakala in Limpopo province, South Africa (Xinhua/Shutterstock)
A drone picture shows rescuers working at the site of the bus crash near Mamatlakala in Limpopo province, South Africa (Xinhua/Shutterstock)

An eight-year-old girl was the sole survivor of a horrific bus crash in South Africa that killed at least 45 pilgrims on an Easter weekend trip.

Forensic investigators were searching for the bodies of victims after the bus plunged 164ft off a bridge into a ravine and caught fire.

Authorities said it appeared that the driver lost control and hit the barriers along the side of the bridge, in a mountainous region near the town of Mokopane, about 125 miles north of Pretoria.

“We were at the scene,” said local resident Simone Mayema, who said he was one of the first to arrive. “We tried to help [but] there was nothing we could do because there was flames.”

Relatives of the bus crash victims gather in a village near Gaborone, Botswana, where the trip departed from (AP)
Relatives of the bus crash victims gather in a village near Gaborone, Botswana, where the trip departed from (AP)

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said the victims, who all appeared to be from Botswana, had been on their way to the town of Moria in Limpopo for a popular Easter weekend pilgrimage that attracts hundreds of thousands of worshippers from South Africa and neighbouring countries who follow the Zion Christian Church.

South African transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, who was in the region for a road safety campaign, changed her plans in order to visit the crash scene. More than 200 people died in road crashes during the Easter weekend in South Africa last year.

The Zion Christian Church has its headquarters in Moria and this year is the first time its Easter pilgrimage has been set to go ahead since the Covid-19 pandemic. The worshippers gather close to where a giant star — the church’s emblem — and the words “Zion City Moria” are painted in white on a hillside.