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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Schoolgirls killed in Java crash
Schoolgirls mourning
Other students at the school are anxiously waiting for news
At least 54 people, most of them schoolgirls returning from a study trip to Bali, have been killed after their bus collided with two other vehicles in Indonesia's East Java region.

A speeding lorry hit the bus head-on as it travelled along a coastal highway towards Yogyakarta.

A third vehicle, a minivan, then ploughed into the back of them and burst into flames.

The bus passengers were trapped in the wreckage of the three vehicles, before being burnt to death, police said.

I'm just shocked and depressed that my daughter died in this way
Victim's father
The collision has been described as Indonesia's worst traffic accident this year.

The bus was the last of three carrying students back from a study trip in Bali to their hometown of Yogyakarta.

It was travelling along an upward-sloping road when a lorry coming down on the other carriageway lost control, and veered into the wrong lane.

Hit from behind by the minivan, the bus exploded into flames, emitting thick smoke.

After the first vehicle had collided with the bus, panic quickly ensued, the bus driver told police.

"I had the time to instruct the children to open the back door, but it turned out they could not," he said.

"Despite the pains that I got from being thrown in the collision, I broke some windows but the fire spread too fast," he said.

The drivers of all three vehicles survived the accident, but 50 schoolgirls, one boy and two teachers are feared dead.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, although investigators suspect the lorry's brakes could have malfunctioned.

Grief and mourning

Yapemda High School, where the students were enrolled, is said to be in a state of shock.

All classes have been cancelled.

Distraught parents gathered at the school to wait for news. One woman collapsed in grief when she heard her daughter had been travelling on the bus.

Authorities at a hospital near the crash scene have begun the grim task of identifying bodies, but many have been burned beyond recognition and may need DNA analysis, officials said.

"I'm just shocked and depressed that my daughter died in this way," said Poniman, the father of a 17-year-old victim.

"Until this morning I thought my daughter would be safe," he said. "But when I saw the other buses return and she was not on them, I realised something was terribly wrong."

"I can't believe she's dead," said Purwaningsih, a student on one of the other buses, who spent Wednesday afternoon with her friend Tri Astuti.

"I still remember how we were joking around just before the crash," she said.

According to the BBC's Jakarta correspondent, Rachel Harvey, motor accidents are not uncommon in Indonesia, where vehicles and roads are poorly maintained.

Corruption is rife, and drivers' licences can easily be bought without a proper test, our correspondent says.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Kylie Morris in Bali
"The nation now has another tragedy to come to terms with"



SEE ALSO:
Bus crash inferno in Indonesia
24 Jan 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
06 Jun 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Indonesia
02 Oct 03  |  Country profiles



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