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Colombia bus fire kills 32 children

Colombia bus fire: 18 others escaped the disaster on Sunday. The Colombia bus fire took place in a northern village of the South American nation.

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Colombia bus fire: The charred remains of a bus, in which children died, is seen in Fundacion, northern Colombia, May 18, 2014.

REUTERS

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Colombian authorities have detained the driver of an overcrowded bus that burned, killing 32 children, the local mayor said Monday.

Luz Estella Duran, mayor of the village of Fundacion where Sunday's tragedy took place, said witness accounts suggest the driver may have left the vehicle running with the children on board when he descended from the bus to fill tank from a portable gas container.

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Another 20 children and adults suffered burns, and nine remained in a delicate state, according to the mayor. The fire occurred as the group was traveling home from an event at an evangelical church.

The regional police chief, Col. Adan Leon, said Sunday 18 people, including some adults, had been found alive at the disaster in Fundacion, which is 465 miles north of Bogota.

Leon said most of the estimated 50 people on the bus were younger than 14. "That adds to the tragedy," he said.

Local officials said the bus was rated to carry only 38 passengers and an investigation was underway.

President Juan Manuel Santos traveled Sunday night to the town near the Caribbean coast to pay his respects to the mostly poor families of the victims. He declared a national day of mourning.

"Yesterday I saw the pain of the mothers and fathers," Santos said in an interview Monday with Blu Radio in Bogota.

He called for a thorough investigation so as to avoid the repeat of such a senseless, preventable tragedy.