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Bulgaria and North Macedonia in mourning after bus accident


SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) – Bulgaria and North Macedonia began national mourning on Wednesday, a day after a bus traveling through Bulgaria with tourists to neighboring North Macedonia crashed and set fire, killing 45 people.

The vehicle with 52 people on board was part of a convoy of buses returning from a trip to Turkey. Although the exact cause of the accident has yet to be determined, the bus apparently went through a containment fence on a highway and quickly became engulfed in flames and burned completely. Among the dead were a dozen minors.

Bulgaria celebrated a day of national mourning on Wednesday, while North Macedonia began a three-day period. National flags in all official institutions flew at half mast and entertainment events were canceled.

Pope Francis sent a telegram with his condolences in which he said he offered his prayers, especially for the families of the smallest victims.

“Aware in particular of the children who have died, (the pope) entrusts the souls of the dead to the mercy of the Almighty and assures his prayers to the bereaved families and those who were injured,” says the telegram signed by the secretary of state of the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Seven survivors were hospitalized in the main emergency hospital in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, with burns and severe bodily injuries.

North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani visited the hospital on Wednesday and told reporters that he was there to meet with patients and facilitate communication between families and institutions in Bulgaria.

Coroners from Skopje, the Macedonian capital, are also expected to join their Bulgarian colleagues in Sofia to conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies of the deceased.

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Associated Press journalist Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

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