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Bus crash claims 14 in Portugal

VIMIEIRO, Portugal — At least 14 people were killed and 25 injured Saturday when a bus plunged 100 feet into a ravine in Portugal's second major road accident in three weeks, emergency services said.

A spokeswoman for the National Civil Defense Service said the bus, carrying mainly old people, skidded off a road in central Portugal after a day out at the shrine of Fatima, one of Roman Catholicism's most revered sites.

"Now 14 people are dead and 25 injured, six of them seriously," the spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that survivors were receiving treatment in local hospitals.

She said the accident happened at about 8 p.m. local time near the Vimieiro, about 135 miles north of the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

She could not give the exact number of people on board the bus, which belonged to the local authority in Viseu, a town near Vimieiro where most of the passengers lived in an old people's home.

More than 100 firefighters, police and ambulance crews worked at the scene of the accident, where the wreckage of the upturned bus lay in a tennis court near smashed guard rails by the side of the twisting mountain road.

"It's a very dangerous road and it was raining hard," National Guard Major Antonio Rosas said in Vimieiro. "The driver failed to turn to the right as he should have done; he carried straight on and over the edge." The state news agency Lusa said nine people had already died since the beginning of the year on the same stretch of road before Saturday's accident.

Portugal has one of Europe's highest rates of fatal traffic accidents.

Earlier this month up to 70 people died in Portugal when a 19th-century bridge collapsed and sent a double-decker bus and several cars tumbling into the swollen, fast-flowing waters of the northern River Douro.

Emergency crews and divers are still searching for the bodies of most of the victims of the March 4 accident at Castelo de Paiva, having so far found just 16, seven of whom were washed up on the coast of Spain's neighbouring Galicia region.

The disaster three weeks ago prompted the swift resignation of the Public Works Minister and has since sparked criticism of the poor state of repair of bridges and roads in the country's less developed hinterland.