MAAN, Jordan – The number of Palestinian pilgrims killed when their bus overturned in a remote area of southern Jordan rose overnight from 14 to 16, including nine who had been pinned under the vehicle, officials said Thursday.
The bus veered off the road in the accident late Wednesday near Jordan’s border with Saudi Arabia, Farid Sharea, a spokesman for Jordan’s Civil Defence department, told the Voice of Palestine radio station.
Injured passenger Azzah Ibrahim said he remembers the bus overturning. “Some of us were beneath the bus, and some of us were inside the bus, between the chairs,” Ibrahim said from his hospital bed in the southern city of Maan, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the scene of the accident.
Sharea said heavy equipment was used to lift the bus and pull nine bodies from underneath the vehicle.
The windows of the mud-smeared bus were shattered. Glass shards, passengers’ crumpled clothing and empty water bottles were strewn on the floor of the vehicle.
The passengers, all from the West Bank, had been on their way to a Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Jordan’s state news agency Petra initially reported late Wednesday that 14 passengers were killed and 36 injured. It said the driver had apparently lost control of the vehicle.
Overnight, the death toll rose to 16, including two children, said Dr. Walid Ruwad, the manager of Maan hospital.
Bassam Hijawi, an official at the Palestinian embassy in Jordan, said five critically injured passengers were flown by helicopter to the Jordanian capital of Amman. Three others, who were in serious condition, were evacuated to a hospital in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, he told the Voice of Palestine.
Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.