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Girl Who Survived South Africa Bus Crash Is in Stable Condition

WorldAfricaGirl Who Survived South Africa Bus Crash Is in Stable Condition

An 8-year-old girl who was the sole survivor of a bus crash that killed 44 worshipers from Botswana on an Easter pilgrimage in South Africa was in stable condition with minor injuries on Friday, the provincial health authorities said.

While investigators were still picking through the wreckage to recover bodies and determine the cause of the crash, family and friends of the deceased were still trying to make sense of what happened to their loved ones.

The worshipers were traveling from the St. Engenas Zion Christian Church in Molepolole, a village about an hour outside of Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, on Thursday when the driver lost control on a sharp turn through a mountainous region in northeastern South Africa.

The bus plunged 165 feet off an overpass and crashed into a rocky ravine, where it burst into flames, the authorities said. The driver also died.

Segametsi David, an elder at the church, said that worshipers had taken regular pilgrimages to the denomination’s headquarters in Moria, South Africa, but had never traveled on the winding, mountainous route where the crash happened.

Ms. David was going around the community on Friday meeting with families of victims, she said.

“We cried last night,” she said. “Right now, we don’t have tears. We are just trying to encourage those that lost loved ones. But it’s hard.”

The girl who survived grew up in the church because her parents were very active and she was “passionate about God,” Ms. David said. She was traveling to South Africa with her grandmother, Ms. David said.

Emergency responders found the girl outside of the bus, and she sustained minor lacerations to her arms, legs, head and back, said Thilivhali Muavha, a spokesman for Dr. Phophi Ramathuba, the official overseeing the Department of Health in Limpopo Province, where the accident occurred.

Mr. Muavha said the authorities had not yet determined how the girl, who has not been publicly identified, was able to survive such a devastating crash.

“All we can say is that we are happy that she was found alive,” he said.

The South African police confirmed on Friday that all 45 passengers on the bus, along with the driver, were citizens of Botswana, making the journey to South Africa from Molepolole, a village that is considered the gateway to the vast Kalahari Desert.

The police were investigating the accident as a case of culpable homicide, according to a statement, though it did not provide further details.

As of Friday afternoon, 34 bodies had been recovered, the police said. Only nine of them were identifiable, with the others burned beyond recognition.

The tragedy cast a dark cloud over Botswana, a heavily Christian nation of about 2.5 million that was preparing to celebrate the Easter weekend.

The Zion Christian Church is the largest denomination in southern Africa. The annual Easter pilgrimage at the church’s headquarters in Moria, South Africa, typically attracts millions of visitors.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said Lemogang Kwape, Botswana’s foreign minister. “We are badly affected by what happened, especially that people were going to enjoy themselves in the Lord.”

Mr. Kwape said he had received a call from his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, to update him on the situation. The Zion church is not only a major religious denomination in Botswana, but it is also involved in community development, he said, including building medical clinics.

Africa has historically had among the highest road-fatality rates in the world, according to data from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

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