Bus crash kills 46 North Macedonia, Serbian nationals in Bulgaria

NEWS 23.11.2021 09:27
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Source: REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Bulgarian media reported that at least 46 people, including the driver, died when a bus traveling from Turkey to North Macedonia crashed and burst into flames in the west of the country.

The disaster, on a highway between the capital Sofia and the border with North Macedonia, happened at between 02:00 and 03:00 am. Local officials said that the bus tore through 50 meters of guardrail before crashing and bursting into flames. Seven of the 52 passengers have been taken to hospital in Sofia with severe burns, local media said adding that the dead included several children.

North Macedonia media reported that six people had survived and were in hospital in Sofia, including a 17 year old girl. The reports said that 12 children died in the accident.

The Serbian state TV (RTS) quoted North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as saying that there was one Serbian national among the dead, specifying that the man from the town of Presevo in southern Serbia was on a weekend trip to Istanbul with his fiance who was from the North Macedonian city of Kumanovo. The Serbian authorities did not immediately confirm his statement.

Media reports said that four buses were traveling in convoy from Istanbul to Skoplje. They stopped to rest at a gas station near the site of the accident, Bulgarian media said adding that there was speculation that some passengers might have changed places between the buses. According to some reports, the section of highway where the accident happened is one of highest-risk roads in the country.

Bulgaria’s Internal Affairs Minister Boyko Rashkov is quoted as telling reporters that “the picture is horrifying, the people on the bus are crowded and burnt, so no one can say at the moment how many there are”. The Mayor of the nearby town of Pernik Stanislav Vladimirov said that the road was wet from rain which had been falling for a whole day but did not speculate on the cause of the crash. Reporters at the scene said there were no visible skid marks.

Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev went to the scene of the crash and told reporters that he expected North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to arrive. North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani arrived at the Pirogov hospital in Sofia where the injured were taken in the early morning hours. He said that more than 10 children had been killed in the crash.