Children among 45 killed in west Bulgaria bus fire

23 November 2021, 05:23 | Updated: 23 November 2021, 10:39

By Emma Soteriou

Some 12 children are among at least 45 people to have died in a bus fire in western Bulgaria.

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The bus caught fire on a highway at around 2am local time on Tuesday, officials said.

The cause of the crash is not immediately clear but an investigation has been launched, they explained.

Seven people with burns were rushed to hospital in the capital Sofia but are in stable condition, according to Reuters.

The head of the fire safety department at the interior ministry, Nikolai Nikolov, told private BTV television: "At least 45 people were killed after a bus caught fire and crashed, or crashed and then caught fire."

The ministry confirmed the toll was 45, despite previously saying there was one more death. It said a total of 53 people were on the bus.

Emergency services attended the scene in western Bulgaria
Emergency services attended the scene in western Bulgaria. Picture: Getty

The vehicle appeared to have hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire, Bulgarian officials said.

It had reportedly been travelling from Turkey to North Macedonia, with most of the victims from the latter, an official from the North Macedonia embassy in Sofia told BTV.

North Macedonian Foreign Affairs Minister Bujar Osmani said the coach party was returning to Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul in Turkey.

The area where the incident took place has now been sealed off.

The remains of the bus could be seen on the motorway.
The remains of the bus could be seen on the motorway. Picture: Getty

Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev visited the site of the crash and told reporters it was "a huge tragedy".

Mr Yanev said: "I take this opportunity to send my condolences to the relatives of the victims. Let's hope we learn lessons from this tragic incident and we can prevent such incidents in the future."

The area has been closed off following the incident.
The area has been closed off following the incident. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said: "People are clustered inside and are burnt to ash.

"The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before."

Investigative service chief Borislav Sarafov said: “Human mistake by the driver or a technical malfunction are the two initial versions for the accident."

This story is being updated