Peru to widen Pan American highway after fatal crash

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Peru's government said it will seek to widen the north Pan American highway as congress planned to interrogate the transport minister following one of the country's deadliest crashes on an ageing coastal road.

A bus crash on the Serpentín de Pasamayo section of the road, known locally as the curva del Diablo (the Devil's curve), left at least 48 dead and six critically injured on a remote stretch of the Pacific coastline 75km north of Lima. It was the country's worst crash since an accident claimed 51 lives in Cusco region in 2013.

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"Today I have ordered the transport and communications ministry to reach an agreement with the Norvial concessionaire to expand the existing highway to three lanes each way and thus eliminate the use of the old and dangerous Pasamayo road," President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski wrote via Twitter.

Norvial is a unit of Peru's largest construction firm Graña y Montero. Peru has been working in recent years on a plan to repave and widen the entire 2,375km highway.

Transport and communications minister Bruno Giuffra, already under pressure from the collapse of a hanging bridge in Cusco that left five dead and 16 missing this week, was summoned to congress to explain the government's road maintenance policy. The opposition-controlled congress ousted Giuffra's predecessor Martín Vizcarra last year.

State transport regulatory agency Sutran said it was investigating the crash, while about 200 police officers and firemen worked to recover bodies from the wreckage of the bus, which fell 150m onto a rocky beach below. Road accidents are common in Peru, causing about 4,000 deaths every year.

Kuczynski, who narrowly avoided being impeached by congress last month, has struggled to accelerate investments in infrastructure since taking office in July 2016.