Burning bus crash in Bulgaria kills 45, mostly North Macedonian tourists

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  • Bus brought tourists back to North Macedonia from Turkey
  • Survivors jumped from a burning vehicle
  • 12 children among the dead – Bulgarian official
  • “It’s a huge tragedy” – North Macedonian Prime Minister

SOFIA, Nov. 23 (Reuters) – At least 45 people, including 12 children, died on Tuesday as a bus carrying mostly North Macedonian tourists crashed into a highway in western Bulgaria, officials said. responsible.

Seven people who jumped from the burning bus were rushed to Pirogov Emergency Hospital in the Bulgarian capital Sofia and were in stable condition, hospital staff said. They had suffered burns and one had a broken leg.

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said 45 people had died, making it the deadliest bus crash in the history of the Balkan country.

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Acting Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said the bodies were “gathered inside and reduced to ashes”.

“The photo is terrifying, terrifying. I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he told reporters on the site.

The cause of the crash was not clear, but the bus appears to have struck a motorway barrier before or after it caught fire, Bulgarian officials said.

The crash happened on the Struma highway about 30 km (19 miles) west of Sofia at around 2 a.m. (0000 GMT), they said.

The coach group was back in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, after a vacation weekend in Istanbul, a journey of around 800 km (500 miles).

“HUGE TRAGEDY”

The head of the Bulgarian investigation service, Borislav Sarafov, said four buses from a North Macedonian travel agency entered Bulgaria on Monday evening from Turkey.

A view shows the site where a bus with North Macedonian plates caught fire on a highway, near the village of Bosnek, Bulgaria, on November 23, 2021. REUTERS / Stoyan Nenov

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“Human driver error or technical malfunction are the two initial versions of the accident,” Sarafov said.

TV footage showed the bus standing but charred and ravaged by fire in the middle of the highway, wet with rain.

“It is a huge tragedy,” North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told reporters in Sofia and expressed his condolences to the relatives of the victims.

Zaev said the passengers were all from North Macedonia but appeared to include a Serbian citizen and a Belgian citizen. It was not clear whether the two were among the casualties or the injured.

Zaev said he spoke to one of the seven survivors who told him the passengers were asleep when they were awakened by the sound of an explosion.

He said people sitting in the back of the bus were able to smash a window and jump over it.

Zaev said the passengers came from various communities in North Macedonia, a country of 2 million people that borders Bulgaria and is home to an ethnic Albanian minority.

In Skopje, ethnic Albanian Osman, 31, told Reuters he came to the travel agency’s office with his brother and sister to seek information on their parents.

“We don’t know if they were on the crashed bus or not. We have no information about them. The agency is not answering the phone. We may have to go to Bulgaria,” he said. he declared.

Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said the passengers were from the ethnic Albanian community in North Macedonia.

“Great pain for the 45 lives of Albanians from North Macedonia lost in the tragic accident in Bulgaria,” he said on Twitter.

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Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac in Skopje; Writing by Stephen Coates and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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