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Bus Deaths Renew Safety Debate in El Salvador

August 20, 2004

SAN SALVADOR (AFP) – A busaccident in east El Salvador lastSaturday that left 37 dead and 24wounded has sparked a debate in thecountry about the need to remove busesmore than 15 years old from the country’sroads.“It is necessary to improve the conditionsof the transportation system. It isalso necessary to create a culture ofgood driving,” said Salvadoran Vice-President Ana Vilma Alvanez, whodirected the rescue operation for the victims.The 37 killed – 10 of them children– were members of an evangelicalchurch traveling near Carolina, 167kilometers east of San Salvador.The bus, which apparently suffered amechanical failure and veered into aravine, was 17 years old – two yearsolder than Salvadoran law permits.But in 2002, a legislative decree permittedthe renovation of permits forolder buses without requiring a mechanicalinspection, a move that broughthundreds of buses back into circulationin the country – some of them morethan 20 years old.Similar accidents have occurred inEl Salvador in the past. In 1999, 39 peoplewere killed after mechanical problemscaused a bus wreck, and 23 peoplewere killed in a similar wreck in 2002.

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