The National - News

Children among 46 dead in Bulgaria bus crash


A bus crash in western Bulgaria killed at least 46 people, including 12 children, authoritie­s said yesterday.

The Interior Ministry said seven people escaped from the burning bus and were being treated in hospital in Sofia for severe burns.

The bus appeared to hit a motorway guard rail, crash and then catch fire.

The bus was one of four travelling together. Officials said an investigat­ion would be launched.

Interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov visited the scene of the crash on the Struma motorway, about 45 kilometres west of the capital Sofia, near the village of Bosnek.

Mr Yanev called the incident “a huge tragedy” and expressed condolence­s to the relatives of the victims.

Mr Rashkov said: “It’s a terrifying picture in there.

“I haven’t seen anything like that before. The bodies are badly burnt and have to be identified one by one.”

He said it would be difficult for officials to determine how many people were in the vehicle because “passengers changed buses during the stops”.

Local media said the North Macedonian and Albanian prime ministers were to visit the site.

There were conflictin­g accounts about the nationalit­ies of the victims.

Police said the bus driver and an associate were North Macedonian­s, and 50 passengers had Albanian nationalit­y.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev appeared to contradict this assessment, saying the majority of victims were from his country.

Pictures from the scene showed the bus had North Macedonia plates.

“We don’t know if all the victims are from North Macedonia, but we assume so because the bus is registered in the country,” Mr Zaev told Nova TV.

Stanimir Stanev, Bulgaria’s national police chief, said “of the victims … 12 in total were under the age of 18”.

According to bTV, the bus was travelling from Istanbul in Turkey to Skopje in North Macedonia.

Oliver Varhelyi, an EU Commission­er, sent condolence­s to the families and friends of those affected by the crash.

“Terrible news about the tragic bus accident in Bulgaria in early morning hours,” Mr Varhelyi wrote on Twitter.

“My thoughts and condolence­s are with the families and friends of those who died, as well as with the people and the authoritie­s of North Macedonia.”

In 2019, EU member state Bulgaria had the second-highest road fatality rate in the 27-nation bloc, with 89 people killed per million of the population, according to European Commission data.

Road accidents killed 628 people in 2019 and 463 in 2020 in the country of 6.9 million people, according to official figures.

The accidents were often attributed to poor road conditions, obsolete and poorly-equipped cars and speeding.

Two years ago, 17 Bulgarian tourists were killed when their bus skidded on a wet road and overturned.

 ?? AFP ?? Senior government officials from Bulgaria, Albania and North Macedonia visited the bus crash site west of Sofia
AFP Senior government officials from Bulgaria, Albania and North Macedonia visited the bus crash site west of Sofia

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