Bus crash in southern Italy kills 38 people

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An Italian tour crushed through a sidewall of a highway bridge in southern Italy, and plunged some 30 meters (100 feet) into a wooded ravine, killing at least 38 people, authorities said Monday.

Rescuers wielding electric saws cut through the twisted wreckage of the bus overnight, looking for survivors after it had plunged to the ground Sunday night. At least 10-meters of the wall was torn away, large chunks were visible in a clearing below.

The bus lost control near the town of Monteforte Irpino in Irpinia, a largely agricultural area about 40 miles (60 km) inland from Naples and about 250 km (160 miles) south of Rome, hitting several cars before plunging off the viaduct. Traffic on the stretch was slowed due to road work, officials said.

State radio quoted a local police chief as saying the bus driver was among the dead. It was not immediately clear why the bus driver lost control of the vehicle, but prosecutors were investigating technical problems and had ordered an autopsy on the driver.

A reporter for Naples daily Il Mattino, Giuseppe Crimaldi, told Sky TG24 TV from the scene that some witnesses told him the bus had been going at a “normal” speed on the downhill stretch of the highway when it suddenly veered and started hitting cars. Some witnesses thought they heard a noise as if the bus had blown a tire.

The bus was carrying a group of weekend holidaymakers from the Naples. The group had arrived from small towns near Naples at a hotel at a the thermal spa on Friday afternoon, and had spent the weekend visiting the spa and an early home of Padre Pio, a late mystic monk popular among Catholics, Michele Montagna, the manager of the hotel told Sky TG24.

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