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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Twenty killed in Philippines bus crash on way to Christmas mass

Police said that six children died in the incident on Monday

This photo provided by Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) shows the wreckage of a passenger van in La Union province, Philippines following an early morning collision with a passenger bus Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. A passenger bus collided with the van carrying pilgrims to Christmas Mass at a church in the northern Philippines, causing casualties and more than two dozen injured. (AP Photo/LTFRB via AP)
This photo provided by Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) shows the wreckage of a passenger van in La Union province, Philippines following an early morning collision with a passenger bus Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. A passenger bus collided with the van carrying pilgrims to Christmas Mass at a church in the northern Philippines, causing casualties and more than two dozen injured. (AP Photo/LTFRB via AP)

Twenty pilgrims from one family were killed on Monday in a head-on bus collision while travelling to a Christmas Day mass in the northern Philippines, police said.

A small bus taking the group to a dawn church service crashed into a larger bus in the town of Agoo, killing 20 on board, including six children, police said.

The nine other occupants of the small bus were injured, as were 17 travelling on the bigger bus, according to a tally released by regional police.

"They [the family] were trying to catch a mass in Manaoag," Agoo police officer Vanessa Abubo told AFP, referring to a northern Philippine town near Agoo with a well-known Catholic church.

The centuries-old Our Lady of Manaoag church is a popular pilgrimage site in the mainly Catholic nation, featuring an icon of the Virgin Mary that the faithful claim performs miracles.

Agoo police chief Roy Villanueva told Manila radio station DZMM that the smaller vehicle had left its lane to overtake a third vehicle.

Authorities are investigating whether the driver, who officer Abubo said was among those killed, had fallen asleep or was under the influence of drink or drugs, Mr Villanueva said.

Agoo is 200 kilometres north of Manila. The pilgrims had come from the town of Bauang, about an hour's drive from Manaoag, police said.

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