In a bus crash in western Bulgaria, dozens were killed. It is a North Macedonian bus, which was on the way back from a trip to the Turkish city of Istanbul. The Bulgarian authorities speak of 45 deaths, North Macedonia says there are 46 deaths.
Among the dead are twelve children. The driver would also have died. Seven people survived the accident and were taken to hospital with injuries. They are out of life hazard.
The bus hit a guardrail and caught fire:
The bus crashed around 1am last night (2am Bulgarian time) on a highway south of Sofia and burned out completely. It is unclear how that could happen. The authorities take into account two causes: a technical failure, such as a puncture, or a human error. A witness reports that an explosion has been heard.
At the time of the accident it was slippery on the road due to precipitation. According to the mayor of the nearby town of Pernik, there were concerns about the safety of the road for a long time. Although many roads in the country are in poor condition, this motorway was recently renewed.
Bulgarian media reports that passengers got stuck because the bus ended up tilted along the road. As a result, most travelers were unable to bring themselves to safety by climbing out through a window.
It is officially still unclear what the nationality of the victims is. Bulgarian media reports that these are Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian victims. Albanian Foreign Minister says all victims are ethnic Albanians from North Macedonia. An Albanian newspaper in Macedonia has published the names of the victims; they all have Albanian names.
According to North Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev, a person of Belgian nationality was also on the bus. It is unclear if it is still alive.
Zaev spoke to the press together with Bulgarian interim Prime Minister Janev this morning. Both spoke of a “shocking tragedy”. “The pain is great for both countries. We have to help each other, as neighbors and fraternal peoples,” said Zaev. Janev said that the disaster will positively affect the relationship between the two countries.
The relationship between the two countries has been difficult in recent years, as Bulgaria is blocking the process of accession of the North Macedonians to the European Union. The Bulgarians refuse to recognize Macedonian as a language and therefore demand that it should not be discussed in any EU document. Sofia also fears that Skopje will come up with territorial claims, because a Macedonian minority lives in Bulgaria.
The accident south of Sofia briefly followed another disaster in Bulgaria. Last night, nine residents of a nursing home were killed in a fire on the top floor of the complex. The cause is still unknown.