World

Argentine officials: at least 15 die when bus flips, 21 hurt

A bus carrying students, parents and teachers from a dance school flipped on a provincial highway in Argentina, killing at least 15 people, officials said on Monday.

Nine adolescents and the driver were among those killed Sunday in Mendoza province, about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) west of Buenos Aires. Another 21 people were hospitalized with injuries in area clinics, including four minors, said provincial health minister Claudia Najul.

Survivors told local news media that the bus was traveling at a high rate of speed with about 50 passengers aboard when it apparently struck the side of a hill on a curvy road, causing the vehicle to turn over.

The dance institute students from Buenos Aires province were returning from a dance tournament in the city of San Rafael in Mendoza province. Local media published photos of teenagers and children among the group playing in the snow in the Andes mountains cordilleras on their way home.

President Mauricio Macri announced two days of national mourning for Tuesday and Wednesday. A presidency statement said that the light-blue and white Argentina flag will be flown at half-staff at all public buildings nationwide.

"I'm shaken by this tragic accident," Macri said on Twitter. "I want to stand by the families and friends in their pain."

The bus had been taken out of circulation in December and was not authorized to travel, according to the National Commission for Transport Regulation.

Investigating Prosecutor Florencia de Diego said the driver lost control of the vehicle due to unknown reasons. She said that the route was in good conditions, the road signals worked and there was good visibility.

A transport plane is expected to land in the area in the next hours to transport the bodies back to Buenos Aires province.

Deadly highway crashes are frequent in Argentina. About 20 people were killed earlier in February when a bus traveling at a high rate of speed from Mendoza to Santiago, Chile flipped over. In the same month, twelve people died after two buses collided head-on in Santa Fe province.