The death toll in a catastrophic bus crash in Peru has risen to 51, making it one of the deadliest vehicle accidents in the nation's history.
The bus carrying 57 people was headed to Peru's capital when it was struck by a tractor trailer and plunged down a slope at a narrow stretch of highway known as the "Devil's Curve," said Claudia Espinoza with Peru's voluntary firefighter brigade.
It plunged 100 meters (330 feet) and landed upside down on rocks at the edge of the sea, strewing lifeless bodies of passengers among the rocks.
"It's very sad for us as a country to suffer an accident of this magnitude," Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said in a statement.
Peru's Health Ministry announced Wednesday that all the bodies had been recovered from the wreckage.
Rescuers had to struggle to rescue survivors and recover the dead from the hard-to-reach area in Pasamayo, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Lima. No road leads directly to the beach, complicating rescue efforts, Espinoza said.
A police helicopter had winched some rescue workers to the wreck of the blue bus while others made the precarious journey down on foot with the assistance of ropes.
Police and firefighters used helicopters to transport six survivors with serious injuries to nearby hospitals.
As rescue operations continued late into the night, authorities announced a suspect had been detained for allegedly robbing belongings of victims.
Espinoza said the passengers in Tuesday's crash included many returning to Lima after celebrating the New Year's holiday with family outside the city.
Transportation Minister Bruno Giuffra said initial reports indicated both vehicles involved were traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the crash.
The highway is known as the "Devil's Curve" because it is narrow, frequently shrouded in mist and curves along a cliff that has seen numerous accidents.
Traffic accidents are common along Peru's roadways, with more than 2,600 people killed in 2016. More than three dozen died when three buses and a truck collided in 2015 on the main costal highway. Twenty people were killed in November when a bus plunged off a bridge into a river in the southern Andes.
The nation's deadliest traffic crash on record happened in 2013 when a makeshift bus carrying 51 Quechua Indians back from a party in southeastern Peru fell off a cliff into a river, killing everyone on board.
Miguel Sidia, a transportation expert in Peru, said that while road conditions in the Andean nation have improved in recent years, lack of driver education and little enforcement of road rules still lead to many fatalities each year.
He called on authorities to immediately conduct studies into building a new highway farther from the cliff where the accident occurred.
"As a Peruvian, it's shameful," he said.
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