Bulgaria bus crash: At least 45 people killed, including children, as vehicle bursts into flames
At least 45 people died in a bus crash in Bulgaria early on Tuesday, officials said.
The head of the country’s disaster control service, Nikolay Nikolov, said “45 or 46 people died” in the accident, which happened around 2 am on a motorway 40 kilometres south of the capital Sofia.
"Seven passengers were rescued" and evacuated to a hospital in the capital, Nikolov said. They were two women and five men.
Five children were among those who died in the crash.
"The survivors are traumatised, they have lost relatives, children. They jumped out of windows," said Maya Arguirova, head of the burns treatment centre where they were transported.
Photos taken shortly after the crash showed the bus engulfed in flames with plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the scene.
Bulgaria's caretaker prime minister Stefan Yanev visited the site of the crash and told reporters it was “a huge tragedy.”
“I take this opportunity to send my condolences to the relatives of the victims,” Yanev said. “Let’s hope we learn lessons from this tragic incident and we can prevent such incidents in the future.”
The bus, which was registered in North Macedonia, was travelling from Istanbul to Skopje.
The cause of the accident could not be determined at this stage.
"The only thing that is clear is that the bus had Macedonian number plates," added Yanev.
"This is a tragedy," said Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev said in an interview with Nova TV.
He also told Bulgarian television channel bTV that he had spoken to one of the bus survivors.
“One of the passengers told me that he was asleep and woke up from an explosion,” he said, adding that the authorities will gather information that is “important for the families of the dead and the survivors.”
Bulgarian news agency Novinite reported representatives from North Macedonia’s embassy visited a hospital where some of the victims were taken.
In 2019, Bulgaria, an EU nation of 7 million, had the second-highest road fatality rate in the 27-nation bloc with 89 people killed per million population, according to European Commission data.