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Dozens die as flames engulf bus in former Soviet state of Kazakhstan

In this Kazakhstan Ministry for Emergency Situations photo, made available Jan. 18, 2018, a bus burns on a road in near the village of Kalybai in Kazakhstan.

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Last Updated Jan 18, 2018 5:01 AM EST

MOSCOW -- A bus fire in Kazakhstan killed 52 people on Thursday in a vast snow-covered steppe, officials said.

The tragedy happened near the village of Kalybai in the northern Aktobe region, the Emergencies Department of the former Soviet nation in Central Asia said. Authorities said that only five of 57 people on the bus managed to escape the blaze. They are being treated for injuries.

Officials said that according to preliminary information all of the victims were citizens of neighboring Uzbekistan. Of the survivors, two are citizens of Kazakhstan who were taking turns to drive the bus and three others are from Uzbekistan.

The bus was driving up north from Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan near the border with Uzbekistan.

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately clear, but investigators suspect it was triggered by a short circuit.