Updated: 08/22/2013 19:46 | By Agence France-Presse

Foreigners among dead in Malaysia bus crash

Several foreigners were among 37 people killed when a bus hurtled into a ravine in Malaysia's worst-ever road accident, but an official Thursday denied reports the vehicle was overloaded and had a history of citations.

Foreigners among dead in Malaysia bus crash

Malaysian rescuers help a passenger (C) after a bus carrying tourists and local residents fell into a ravine near the Genting Highlands, about an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur on August 21, 2013. Officials confirmed Thursday foreigners were among the 37 people killed when the bus crashed in Malaysia's worst-ever road accident

The privately operated bus had 53 aboard when it veered off a treacherous mountain road leading to a highland resort Wednesday, tumbling into a deep gully and scattering dead and injured on a mountainside.

According to the health ministry and police, the dead include 14 Malaysians, two Indians, a Korean, a Nepalese, and two Bangladeshis. One of the Bangladeshis also held a Canadian passport, officials said.

Health ministry official Jeya Indran Sinnadurai told reporters the rest were yet to be identified.

Sixteen survivors are in hospital, including Malaysian, Indonesian, Bangladeshi and Thai nationals. Jeya said all were expected to survive.

"All those who were critical, we have been able to turn around," he said.

Some officials were initially quoted as saying the number of passengers had exceeded the vehicle's capacity.

But Syed Hamid Albar, chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission, denied that, saying its capacity was 65, according to news website Malaysiakini.

The bus route shuttles visitors to the Genting Highlands resort, a mountaintop gambling and entertainment park near the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Local media reported the vehicle was on a police "blacklist" due to excessive traffic citations, which can result in banishment from the road unless citations are settled.

But Syed Hamid also denied those reports.

Survivors said the bus's brakes appeared to fail, sending it careening out of control and down a steep 70-metre (230-foot) hillside.

"It kept picking up speed and everyone was screaming in fear... there was a lorry in front and the bus driver had to swerve to avoid it and lost control," passenger Suriardi Budiarto was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.

He survived because he was flung clear of the bus.

The resort is popular with both Malaysians and foreigners but the notoriously steep and winding road to it has seen several accidents over the years.

Two Indian tourists died and 22 people were hurt when a bus overturned last year. Seventeen people died in 1996 when their bus veered off the road.

The resort's casino and amusement park draw about 20 million visitors a year. It is undergoing a major refurbishment that will include construction of a Twentieth Century Fox theme park set to open in 2016.

The resort is operated by Resorts World Genting, which is owned by Genting Malaysia, one of the country's largest companies.

"That road is very dangerous, with too many curves. They should make it smoother. Even without touching the accelerator you can end up crashing," Ong Cheng Hoe, 54, told AFP.

Ong's brother-in-law Lim Kok Hoe, 43, was the bus driver. He was among those killed.

In ordering an investigation, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for greater attention to safety on the risky route.

"The Genting Highlands road is a very important route used by many tourists on a daily basis, thus the enforcement of all relevant laws must be given priority to ensure it remains safe," the Star quoted him as saying.

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