At least 45 killed in passenger bus fire in Bulgaria

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Authorities believe a total of 52 passengers, including 12 children, were on board the bus, most of whom were tourists from North Macedonia, when the incident happened around 3 a.m. local time on Tuesday.

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The bus, which had a North Macedonian registration, was traveling on the Struma highway west of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The bus driver was among the dead, according to Bulgarian National Television (BNT).

BNT reported that after initially reporting 46 deaths, officials later said it was not clear whether 45 or 46 people died.

Seven people who jumped from the burning bus were taken to a hospital in Sofia and are in a stable condition, hospital staff said. Reuters,

Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said the bodies were “collected inside and burned to ashes.”

“The picture is horrible, horrible. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he told reporters on the site.

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

Footage from Nova TV Bulgaria shows the charred remains of a bus on the side of the highway, with a damaged barrier beneath the vehicle.

Emergency responders were seen standing near fire engines and a police van, while an investigator in a white protective suit surveyed the scene taking photographs. Behind the vehicle, damage to the center divider was visible with debris scattered on either side of the highway.

The coach party was returning from a weekend holiday in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, for a journey of about 800 km (500 mi) from Istanbul.

Bulgaria’s interim prime minister, Stepan Yanev, told reporters: “We have had a great tragedy here.”

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he spoke to one of the survivors, who told him the passengers were asleep when they were woken up by the sound of the explosion.

“I am scared. It is such a big tragedy,” he told private television channel BTV.

The head of the Bulgarian investigative service, Borislav Sarafov, said four buses from a travel agency in North Macedonia entered Bulgaria from Turkey late Monday.

“Human error or technical fault by the driver are the two early versions of the accident,” he said.

State media reported that officials have started an investigation into the incident.


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