Kuala Lumpur: At least 33 bodies have been recovered from a bus that plunged into a deep ravine near a Malaysian mountaintop tourist resort on Wednesday, a fire department official said.
Police have said the bus was carrying up to 45 people when it tumbled down a hill in Genting Highlands, a gambling and entertainment resort about an hour’s drive from the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
“We have 20 confirmed dead,” the fire official, M. Mahendran, told AFP by phone. “We have taken out some injured people but we are unable to confirm how many were in the bus.”
He said officials have been unable to confirm the nationalities of victims.
Lines of rescuers clinging to an orange rope for support were seen pulling out injured victims from the mangled bus which was lying on its side in thick vegetation about 30 metres (100 feet) down from the road.
Amateur photos posted on the internet also showed damage to the road’s concrete embankment, suggesting the bus had managed to smash through the barrier.
Malaysian media had earlier reported that at least 15 people had been sent to hospital after the accident at around 3pm on a steep and winding road.
Police have said the bus was part of a regular line that ferries visitors between the capital and the hill resort. The flashy resort, whose bright lights can be seen from the city at night, is operated by Malaysian gaming firm Genting, one of the country’s largest companies.
The resort includes the country’s sole casino and has attracted more than 20 million visitors per year since 2011. It is currently undergoing a reportedly three billion ringgit (Dh3.3 billion) refurbishment. The plans include a 400 million ringgit Twentieth Century Fox theme park set to open in 2016.
However, the steep and winding road leading up to the Genting Highlands is notoriously perilous. Two Indian tourists died and 22 other people were hurt when their bus overturned in the area last year.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has banned gambling but allows non-Muslims to bet at the casino in the Genting Highlands, as well as on horse-racing and private lotteries.