A bus accident on Tuesday on a highway in western Bulgaria has killed at least 45 people. The cause behind the accident has not been determined yet.
The vehicle crashed in flames at around 2 am local time as it was traveling along a highway 45 kilometers (26 miles) from the capital, Sofia.
According to Bulgaria’s interior ministry, the death toll stands at 45 people, marking the accident as the deadliest accident of its kind in the Balkan country’s history.
As per officials, 12 children were also on board. It was not immediately determined if any of them had survived.
The bus was heading from Turkey to North Macedonia. The officials shared that it seems like it hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire near the village of Bosnek, according to officials.
Seven people who leaped from the burning vehicle were rushed to a hospital in Sofia and were in stable conditions, as per the hospital staff.
Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov visited the site of the accident and said that the bodies of those who died in the incident were “clustered inside [the bus] and are burnt to ash.”
Rashkov said, “The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before”.
‘An enormous tragedy’
Television footage showed the bus charred and gutted by fire in the middle of the highway, which was wet from the rain.
Talking to the media the Bulgarian interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev said, “We have an enormous tragedy here”.
North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that he had spoken to one of the survivors who shared with him that the passengers were sleeping when they were woken by the sound of an explosion.
He added, “I am terrified. This is such a huge tragedy,” he told private television channel BTV.
Zaev said he was afraid that all the victims might be from North Macedonia, as the bus was registered in the country.
The coach party was returning to Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul, a trip of about 800 kilometers (500 miles).
Bulgarian investigative service chief Borislav Sarafov said that four buses from a North Macedonian travel agency had entered Bulgaria late on Monday from Turkey.
He added, “Human mistake by the driver or a technical malfunction are the two initial versions for the accident”.