CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - At least 22 people were killed in South Africa on Friday when a double-decker bus crashed into the side of a mountain while navigating the dangerous Hex River Pass 140 km (80 miles) northeast of Cape Town, police said.

"It appears as if the brakes failed and the driver lost control," said Kenny Africa, the police traffic spokesman for the Western Cape province. Two children were among the dead and 44 passengers were injured.

"We are recovering more bodies and the death toll may rise," Africa told Reuters from the accident scene, adding it was unclear how many people were on board the bus.

The pass, situated in the picturesque Hex River Valley, is notorious for accidents because its straight and long descent allows vehicles to gather momentum before it leads suddenly into a dangerously sharp left turn.

Road use is the primary means of travel in Africa's largest economy, and the government has introduced tough laws to clamp down on reckless driving and poorly-maintained vehicles as it tries to curb an annual toll of some 14,000 deaths.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Ed Stoddard)