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34 killed in Vietnam bus crash

A crowded night bus has plunged off a bridge into a river in central Vietnam, killing 34 passengers and injuring 21 others in one of the country's deadliest road accidents.

The 50-seat coach crashed through the bridge's guardrails on Thursday night, falling about 18 metres and landing on its top, partially submerged in the Serepok River, said local official Tran Bao Que.

"When the accident happened, everyone in the bus was sleeping," survivor Nguyen Van Khanh told online news site Dan Tri.

"I vaguely heard a noise like a gun fire and then people were screaming when the bus was overturned... I managed to escape through a window which was smashed open by others."

Que said it took rescuers four hours to pull the bodies from the bus, which was travelling on a regular 217-mile route from the central highland province of Dak Lak to the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

Rescuers used axes to try to free trapped passengers. Photos showed a body hanging out of the side of the ripped-open vehicle, which was hoisted out of the river by crane early this morning.

Y Bliu Arul, deputy director of the General Hospital in Dak Lak, said the bus's two drivers were among the 32 people who died at the scene. Two others died at the hospital.

Of the 21 injured, 16 were in a serious condition.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash. Vietnam has one of the world's highest traffic fatality rates, with more than 11,000 people killed each year.

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