By PISAI GUMAR and DAISY TANIOVA PAWA
FORTY people have died in the worst road accident in Papua New Guinea.
It happened about 130km out of Lae in the Markham Valley on Tuesday afternoon.
Two 25-seater buses crashed head on at speeds of more than 100km an hour, immediately killing 37 of the 59 people aboard both vehicles.
Three others, who had been severely injured and awaiting transportation to Lae, died and were later taken to the Lae International Hospital morgue, at Milfordhaven to take the number of the dead to 40.
Of the 19 survivors, 11 have been treated for injuries and eight have been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Angau Memorial Hospital.
Police and medical workers said last night the number of dead could increase.
It is believed another two dead were taken straight from the crash site to their villages in the Markham Valley.
If authorities confirm it, the number of the dead should reach 42, Angau Hospital workers said.
The accident took place at Ragiampum village on the Highlands Highway between Umi Bridge and Watarais, which is at the foot of the Kassam Pass and near the Madang and Eastern Highlands borders.
A Route 100 (Highway) Coaster bus was heading to Lae from the Highlands loaded with people and fresh produce from Mt Hagen, Western Highlands province.
Its passengers were mainly people from Western Highlands, Simbu and Eastern Highlands provinces.
The other vehicle, a Route 3 PMV that services the Lae and Gusap route, was loaded with passengers of mainly Markham, Morobe province, origin.
According to eye witnesses at Ragiampum village and the Mutzing police, the buses were trying to avoid a pothole when they collided.
The impact killed the passengers.
Some of them were thrown out of the side windows and splayed on the tar. Others were thrown onto grass on the side of the road. Many of the dead suffered broken heads, necks and limbs.
Motorists, who were following the vehicles, arrived to a scene in which the PMVs were smashed outside and ripped inside.
Bodies were lying incongruently in a macabre and bloody scene that profoundly shocked many people who had never seen ghastly accidents before.
“This is the nastiest and bloodiest of accidents on the highway,” Markham MP Koni Iguan said.
Villagers standing near him agreed.
“We have witnessed less than 10 victims on previous occasions this is horrific,” Mr Iguan said.