A highway in the British Columbia Interior has reopened after a passenger bus crash sent more than 50 people to hospital.

Few details have been released about the Saturday evening incident, but Interior Health tweeted that 53 people are being treated at three hospitals in Kelowna, Penticton and Merritt.

The regional health authority said it has implemented a Code Orange response signalling a disaster or mass-casualty event. It said additional critical care staff in areas including the emergency department, medical imaging and surgery have been activated to support urgent patients.

There was no immediate word on whether anyone was killed in the crash, nor on the condition of any patients. The health authority has set up an information line for families looking for more details on loved ones. 

The crash took place Christmas Eve on the Highway 97C Okanagan Connector between Merritt and Kelowna, temporarily prompting the closure of the road in both directions for more than 81 kilometres between Junction Hwy 97 and Aspen Grove.

DriveBC, the communications arm of the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, said the stretch of road has been cleared and reopened shortly before 8:30 a.m. local time.

The ministry released a traffic advisory after the highway reopened warning of poor driving conditions on highways in the southern Interior due to snow and freezing rain.

The ministry urged drivers to avoid non-essential travel and to use caution and be prepared for highway closures on short notice if they must be out on the roads.

B.C. Premier David Eby, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming released a joint statement Saturday evening expressing their shock and sadness over the crash.

"Our thoughts are with those impacted by the crash, their loved ones, and the first responders and health-care workers giving their all to treat people and keep them safe,” the statement read.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 25, 2022.