Mexico mudslide buries bus, up to 60 dead

PUEBLA, Mexico (Reuters) - A mudslide buried a bus carrying as many as 60 passengers in a remote region of Mexico on Wednesday. A local rescuer said those on board were probably killed but the government held out hope for survivors.

After days of heavy rain, part of a sodden hill collapsed on the bus as it was driving through the southern state of Puebla. The slide trapped passengers under as much as 23 feet of mud and rock, senior state rescue official German Garcia told Reuters.

The accident took place early in the morning, but the first professional rescue teams did not reach the site in the municipality of Eloxochitlan until mid-afternoon.

The federal government said the bus was carrying 60 people, although Garcia estimated closer to 45 victims were buried.

While soldiers and other rescue workers took hours to navigate slippery mountain roads, a second smaller mudslide hampered early efforts by bystanders to dig for survivors.

“They were trying to rescue them when another collapse buried (the bus) even more,” firefighter Abimael Garcia told Reuters by telephone from a fire station at Tehuacan, the nearest city to the accident.

President Felipe Calderon sent orders for the interior and defense ministries to join in the effort to dig out the bus, which had left the town of Porfirio Diaz bound for Tehuacan.

Mud and debris from the slide covered 200 square meters around the bus. The passengers were presumably suffocated or crushed, the firefighter said.

“It’s very unstable zone, you have to move very carefully,” state official Garcia said.

Relentless rain in recent days with the start of the annual rainy season has caused flooding in many parts of Mexico.