Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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HomeWorldTourists' bus crashes and bursts into flames in Bulgaria, killing 45

Tourists’ bus crashes and bursts into flames in Bulgaria, killing 45

In Summary

  • Bodies were “clustered inside and burnt to ash”.
  • North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev describes it as “a huge tragedy.”

A bus carrying North Macedonian tourists crashed in flames on a highway in western Bulgaria on Tuesday, killing at least 45 people, including 12 children.

The cause of the accident was unclear but the bus appeared to have hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire, the officials said.

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

The Interior Ministry said 45 people had died, making it the most deadly bus accident in the Balkan country’s history.

Interim Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said bodies were “clustered inside and are burnt to ash”.

“The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before,” he told reporters at the site.

The accident happened on the Struma highway about 30 km west of Sofia around 2 a.m.

The coach party had been returning to Skopje, capital of North Macedonia, after a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul, a trip of about 800 km.

Borislav Sarafov, head of investigative services, said four buses from a North Macedonian travel agency had entered the country late on Monday from Turkey.

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

Shocking Accident

In front of the Ismail Qemali elementary school in Skopje, pupils cried after hearing news that five of their schoolmates, all from one family, had been killed.

“Ergin was my friend. He was a very good boy. Very nice. I am so sorry that they died,” Blerim Bushi, 11, told Reuters.

In Sofia, Adnan Yasharovski, 45, said his 16-year-old daughter Zuleikha called him to say she had survived the crash, and he travelled to see her in hospital.

“She was crying. Her hands were burnt but otherwise fine,” he told Reuters outside the hospital.

“She didn’t say much, she was crying and she was in shock. I only saw her through the door as due to COVID, they did not let me into the room.”

Bulgaria Horror

Television footage showed the bus standing upright but charred and gutted by fire in the middle of the highway, which was wet from rain.

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

Bulgaria Bus Accident TV47
The cause of the accident was unclear but the bus appeared to have hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire, the officials said. PHOTO/REUTERS

Zaev said the passengers were all from North Macedonia but appeared to include a Serbian citizen and a Belgian citizen. It was unclear whether the two were among the victims or injured.

Zaev said he had spoken to one of the seven survivors who told him the passengers were sleeping when they were woken by the sound of an explosion.

He said people sitting at the back of the bus were able to break a window and jump out.

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