At least 46 people were killed in an overnight bus accident in Bulgaria, among them several children, officials said Tuesday.
“We have an enormous tragedy here,” Bulgarian interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev told reporters. 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,” he told reporters at the site.
The bus, which has North Macedonian license plates, was traveling from Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, to Skopje in North Macedonia. North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said the coach party was returning to the capital Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul, according to Reuters news agency.
There had been 53 people, including at least 12 children, on board.
Breaking News: At least 45 people were killed in a bus crash and fire in western Bulgaria, officials said. Most victims were from North Macedonia. https://t.co/1srUv68qTC
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 23, 2021
The accident is believed to have taken place at 2 a.m. on the Struma motorway about 40 kilometers (26 miles) from Bulgaria‘s capital, Sofia.
Bus hit a highway barrier in Bulgaria
The cause of the accident was unclear but the bus appeared to have hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire, Bulgarian officials said.
Television footage showed the bus charred and gutted by fire in the middle of the highway.
Most of the passengers on the bus were from North Macedonia, an official at the North Macedonian embassy in Sofia told bTV. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the victims were most likely fellow Macedonians.
“We don’t know if all the victims are from North Macedonia, but we assume so because the bus is registered in the country,” he told Nova TV in an interview.
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his horror for the tragic accident in the neighboring country:
“I am absolutely horrified by the terrible accident and loss of life in Bulgaria early this morning, especially of young children. Our prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives. A speedy recovery to those injured,” he wrote on Twitter.
I am absolutely horrified by the terrible accident and loss of life in Bulgaria early this morning, especially of young children. Our prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives. A speedy recovery to those injured.
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) November 23, 2021