Sixteen bodies believed to be children have been recovered, and the toll could rise, Xinhua quoted Magdalena police chief Adan Leon as saying on local radio station.
Leon said that 14 children were rescued, but they suffered various degrees of injuries. They were being treated at nearby hospitals, he said.
“According to witnesses, people were boarding the bus when the fire started” in the city of Fundacion, about 750 kilometers north of Bogota, he said, adding that the authorities will conduct further investigations to determine the causes of the tragedy.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his condolences on his Twitter account.
“We deeply regret the accident occurred in Fundacion, Magdalena, where at least 15 people have been killed according to the latest information,” the head of state posted on the social network right after the disaster.
Meanwhile, Bogota’s daily El Tiempo said 31 children have been killed in the accident, but this number has not been officially confirmed.