AT least 48 people were killed in Peru when a bus tumbled down a cliff from a narrow stretch of road known as the Devil’s Curve, authorities said.

The bus, carrying 57 people in total, was heading for the capital, Lima, when it was struck by a tractor trailer and plunged down the slope on to a rocky beach, a firefighter confirmed.

The blue bus came to rest upside down on a strip of shore next to the Pacific, with passengers’ bodies strewn among the rocks. Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said: “It’s very sad for us as a country to suffer an accident of this magnitude.”

Rescuers struggled to reach survivors and recover the dead from the hard-to-reach spot in Pasamayo, about 43 miles north of Lima. No road leads directly to the beach, complicating rescue efforts.

Police and firefighters used helicopters to transport six survivors with serious injuries to nearby hospitals. Colonel Dino Escudero said 48 people were confirmed dead with at least three other people missing.

Transportation minister Bruno Giuffra said initial reports indicated both vehicles involved were travelling at high speed at the time of the crash.

As rescue operations continued late into the night, authorities announced a suspect had been detained for allegedly stealing from the victims.

Traffic accidents are common in Peru, with more than 2600 people killed in 2016.