At least 45 people, including 12 children, died when a bus carrying tourists from North Macedonia crashed onto a highway in western Bulgaria hours before dawn on Tuesday, officials said.
Hospital staff said that seven people who jumped from the burning bus were taken to hospital in Sofia in stable condition. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said 45 people died, making it the deadliest bus accident in the Balkan country’s history.
Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said the bodies were “clustered inside, burning and reduced to ashes”.
“The picture is terrifying and terrifying. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he told reporters at the site.
Bulgarian officials said the cause of the accident was not clear, but the bus appeared to have hit a barrier on the highway before or after it caught fire.
The bus was gutted by flames
Bulgarian officials said the accident occurred on the Struma highway, about 45 kilometers west of Sofia, around 2:00 a.m. local time. The bus party was back in Skopje from a weekend trip to Istanbul, a trip of about 800 kilometers.
Television footage showed the bus charred and set ablaze in the middle of the highway drenched in rain.
“We have a huge tragedy here,” Bulgarian Interim Prime Minister Stefan Yaniv told reporters.
The prime minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zeev, said he spoke to a survivor and told him that the passengers were asleep when they were woken by an explosion.
“I am terrified. This is a huge tragedy,” he told private TV channel BTV.
The head of Bulgaria’s investigative service Borislav Sarafov said four buses from a North Macedonia travel agency entered Bulgaria late on Monday from Turkey.
“Human error on the part of the driver or a technical failure are the first two versions of the accident,” he said.