A horrific bus accident near Cradock in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa has left 18 people dead and more than 30 injured. The accident occurred on the morning of the 21st July when two passenger buses collided on the R61 highway between Cradock and Graaf-Reinet.

The South African Deputy Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has said that the accident was shocking and upsetting in her statement to the press issued on Saturday. “We are terribly shocked and saddened at the news of this horrific incident,” said Chikunga. She stressed the importance of road safety in her statement, and emphasized that the loss of innocent lives in an accident such as this one is unnecessary and could be avoided by safe driving practices. Chikunga also offered condolences on behalf of the South African government to the bereaved families and a rapid recovery to those injured in the accident.

Among the 18 people killed were two school children, according to South African road safety authority Arrive Alive. 30 bus passengers were injured, 14 seriously. The injured were transported to local hospitals where they are receiving treatment. There have as yet been no reports as to the condition of the injured from the hospitals.

One of the buses involved in the accident was carrying a group of schoolchildren to a school event in Graaf-Reniet before it collided with a long distance passenger bus driving from Mthatha to Cape Town. The circumstances of the incident are unclear, and it is yet to be determined whether it was a head on collision or a side-swipe.

Deputy Minister Chikunga will be visiting the injured survivors and the scene of the accident this weekend. She has encouraged law enforcement officials to investigate the incidents surrounding the collision thoroughly, and make recommendations to prevent such tragic accidents from happening in the future.

This incident has brought the death toll on South African roads in the last three weeks to more than 50. Most fatalities occurred in accidents involving passenger carrying vehicles such as minibus taxis and buses.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation will be investigating the accident, and has dispatched a team of experts to the collision site as part of the investigation process. The surviving passengers will be interviewed to determine the exact circumstances prior to the accident, and to see whether any parties can be held liable for the incident.

Arrive Alive has urged all motorists to exercise caution when travelling on South African roads this Winter.

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