At least 32 children perished when a bus caught fire in northern Colombia, officials said on Sunday.

Police said the cause of the accident was not yet known, but occurred as the victims were returning from an evangelical Christian event.

“We are still investigating what happened, but preliminary information is that 32 children died when the bus caught fire near the city of Fundacion,” 850 kilometres north of Bogota, regional police commander General Rodrigo Gonzalez said.

El Tiempo newspaper said a suspected cause of the fire was a shipment of contraband fuel loaded onto the bus.

Gonzalez said several of the victims died on the scene and others succumbed to injuries in hospital.

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