Philippine bus crash kills 21

A bus rented by Iranian medical students plunges into a ravine in the Philippines, killing 21 people and injuring 26 others.

CEBU, PHILIPPINES // A bus rented by Iranian medical students plunged into a ravine off a mountain road in the central Philippines, killing 21 people and injuring 26 others, officials said today. The brakes apparently failed before the bus plummeted into a 30-metre ravine on Sunday in Balamban town in Cebu province, police senior superintendent Erson Digal said. The Filipino driver and bus owner and 20 Iranians died, Mr Digal said.

The dead, which included two boys, were brought to Cebu's Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes where they were visited by grieving relatives, friends and Iranian Embassy officials, said Edgar Sanchez, the funeral parlour's director. Embassy and school officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Regional military spokesman Lt Col Wilson Feria said 26 others were injured. Nine of an estimated 55 passengers were unaccounted for, but the military was double-checking because it was unclear exactly how many people were on board, Mr Feria said.

Villagers and police pulled bodies from the mangled wreckage at the rocky bottom of the ravine, while a backhoe sent by a nearby Japanese shipbuilding company attempted to lift the bus up, Mr Feria said. Many victims were medical students in Cebu, a bustling commercial and tourism centre 560 kilometres southeast of Manila. They were identified by relatives and through their IDs, Mr Digal said. Mr Feria said it was not clear if the Iranians were involved in a medical mission or went for an outing at one of several resorts in and around Cebu.

Poorly maintained vehicles and roads, along with inadequate safety signs, railings, training and weak traffic law enforcement, are blamed for many deadly accidents in the Philippines. * AP