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12/21/08

And while we read about the plane that slid off the runway.....

....this morning in Denver, Colorado that thankfully caused no deaths:

1) Seventeen people died in the early hours of this morning when a bus fell 100m off the side of the hill that connects La Paz with El Alto, Bolivia. Anyone who's visited the place knows the zigzag road that connects the two cities, as the airport is in El Alto and your hotel was almost certainly down the hill in the city centre.

2) Twenty-one people died yesterday morning when a minivan was hit at high speed by a 50-seater bus travelling significantly over the speed limit some 23km outside of the city of Juliaca, Peru. The owner/driver of the bus, fearing he would be lynched by locals for causing the accident, fled. Furious locals burnt his bus to the ground instead. One person inside the minivan survived.

3) Fifteen people died last night when another minivan fell 100m off the side of the road near the town of Huamachuco in the La Libertad region of Peru last night. The bus was carrying a group of schoolteachers to a Christmas convention.

I decided not to add photos to this report. I for one didn't want to come back to this blog tomorrow morning and see the photos that local newspapers have 'entertained' their readership with today. Travelling up and down this continent, often by road and often in public transport, I've seen my fair share of nastiness and you hear stories like the three above all the time, more's the pity. My own personal nearest miss was in Paraguay, as the wheel of the bus I was travelling on sheared off its axle and I had the pleasure of watching it bounce off into the semi-tropical scrub like one of those WWII dambuster bombs before the driver realized what had happened (the passengers finally managed to convince him to stop).

The three multiple-death causing accidents in the last 24 hours are from Peru and Bolivia, but the next headline might be from any other country you care to mention. The criminal combination of badly maintained vehicles, badly maintained roads, badly paid public transport workers who are often obliged to drive for 14 hours non-stop, the machismo attitude of said drivers, the all-out drive for lower costs and higher revenues, the lack of laws and enforcement of laws that exist, the driver/police dance of bribing one's way out of a problem...all these factors and more combine to make journeying on LatAm roads a dangerous pastime.

But there's nothing like a plane crash, is there?

UPDATE: I just noticed that eight people died and 39 were injured in various auto accidents in Argentina today.