At least 20 killed in double-decker bus blaze in Peru capital Lima

Peruvian investigators work next to a burnt bus on a street in Lima, Peru, March 31, 2019.
PHOTO: Reuters

At least 20 people were killed and eight injured when a double-decker bus they were travelling in caught on fire in the Peruvian capital Lima on Sunday, a spokesman for the country's firefighters said.

Witnesses said the fire started in the bus's motor at the rear of the vehicle and quickly spread inside, according to spokesman Lewis Mejia, in broadcast comments on local television channel Canal N.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, he said.

Lima's Mayor Jorge Munoz said the bus burst into flames at a bus stop authorities had banned just weeks ago because it was next to an illegal shop that sells fuel.

"It appears that on the second floor of the bus, where most of the victims were found, they were transporting fuel. That's a very serious matter," Munoz told journalists in broadcast comments before visiting survivors at a local hospital.

Passers-by described scenes of panic and cries of terror.

A woman cries while being checked by paramedics outside the bus station on March 31, 2019. Photo: AFP

Eight units of firefighters were deployed to put out the fire on the bus, which was heading to the northern coastal city of Chiclayo, according to local broadcaster RIP.

Television images showed the scorched remains of the vehicle surrounded by crowds of people in the district of San Martin de Porres on the outskirts of the capital.

Authorities in Lima have repeatedly failed to reign in the city's so-called informal transport system, a chaotic network of independent and unauthorised vans and buses used by millions of people every day.

The charred remains of the bus that caught fire north of Lima on March 31, 2019.​Photo: AFP

Firefighters found that the bus lacked fire extinguishers and safety equipment, RPP reported.

Munoz vowed to punish the owners.

"They have defied a municipal order … I'm completely outraged," Munoz said. "These people must be removed and criminal sanctions will be sought."

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse