SOFIA, Nov 23 (Reuters) – At least 45 people, including 12 children, were killed in a fire on a bus carrying mostly North Macedonian tourists hours before dawn Tuesday on a highway in western Bulgaria. reported the Bulgarian authorities.
Seven people who jumped from the burning bus were taken to a Sofia hospital and were in stable condition, according to medical staff. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said 45 people died in the fire, making it the deadliest bus accident in the history of the Balkan country.
The country’s Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said the bodies were found “grouped inside and burned.”
“The image is terrifying, creepy. I have never seen anything like this,” he told reporters at the scene.
The cause of the accident was unclear, but the bus appeared to have hit a highway barrier before or after catching fire, according to Bulgarian authorities.
The accident occurred on the Struma highway, about 45 km west of Sofia, around 2:00 a.m. (0000 GMT), according to Bulgarian authorities. The group of coaches was returning to Skopje after a weekend trip to Istanbul, a journey of about 800 km (500 miles).
Television images showed the bus charred and destroyed by fire in the middle of the highway, which was wet from rain.
“A human error by the driver or a technical failure are the two initial versions of the accident,” said the head of the Bulgarian investigation services, Borislav Sarafov.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; writing by Stephen Coates; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore; translated by José Muñoz at the Gdansk newsroom)