At least 48 people died when a bus tumbled down a cliff onto a rocky beach Tuesday along a narrow stretch of highway known as the "Devil's Curve," Peruvian police and fire officials said.
The bus carrying 57 people was headed to Peru's capital when it was struck by a tractor trailer shortly before noon and plunged down the slope, said Claudia Espinoza with Peru's voluntary firefighter brigade.
The blue bus came to rest upside down on a strip of shore next to the Pacific, the bodies of passengers strewn among the rocks.
"It's very sad for us as a country to suffer an accident of this magnitude," Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said in a statement.
Rescuers had to struggle to rescue survivors and recover the dead from the hard-to-reach area in Pasamayo, about 43 miles north of Lima.
No road leads directly to the beach, complicating rescue efforts, Espinoza said. Police and firefighters used helicopters to transport six survivors with serious injuries to nearby hospitals. Col. Dino Escudero said 48 people were confirmed dead and at least three were missing.
Transportation Minister Bruno Giuffra said initial reports indicated both vehicles involved were traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the crash. Calls by The Associated Press to the company that owns the bus were not immediately returned.
As rescue operations continued late into the night, authorities announced a suspect had been detained for allegedly robbing belongings of victims.
Traffic accidents are common along Peru's roadways, with more than 2,600 people killed in 2016. More than three dozen died when three buses and a truck collided in 2015 on the main costal highway. Twenty people were killed in November when a bus plunged off a bridge into a river in the southern Andes.