LUSAKA, Zambia - A bus operated by Zambia's postal service carrying passengers toward its capital Lusaka smashed into a semi-truck and another car Thursday, killing at least 53 people in one of the worst traffic crashes in the nation in recent history, officials said.
The crash happened Thursday morning near the town of Chifamba, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Lusaka, police spokeswoman Elizabeth Kanjela said. Images carried by local media in Zambia showed rescuers climbing over the smashed-in front-end of the white bus, the remains of the orange semi-truck in pieces in front of it. Other images showed corpses laying alongside the two-lane highway that connects the capital to neighboring Tanzania.
Kennedy Sakeni, Zambia's information minister, said at least 53 people died in the crash, while another 22 had been taken to local hospitals. A sport utility vehicle also was involved in the crash, he said.
Zambia Postal Services runs the bus routes throughout the country, carrying passengers and mail through the nation of 13 million people in southern Africa. The crash happened as the sport utility vehicle tried to pass the bus and ran head-on into the semi-truck, sending the truck into the bus' path, district commissioner Priscilla Chisha said.
Kanjela said rescuers still couldn't get into the bus to see if any other bodies remained inside, even hours after the crash. Police were continuing their investigation Thursday night. The two-lane highway where the crash happened is known for having high traffic, even during the night.
In a statement, President Michael Sata said he had sent his condolence to the families who lost loved ones in the crash.
"Allow me on behalf of my Cabinet, the First Lady and indeed on my own behalf to convey my deepest condolences to the bereaved families," Sata said. "We pray that the Lord almighty grants the bereaved families comfort and strength during this very painful period."
The crash Thursday represented one of the worst for Zambia in recent years. In April 2005, a truck packed with high school students skidded off a mountain road in northern Zambia, killing at least 38 and seriously injuring another 50.