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Bulgaria, North Macedonia in mourning after dozens killed in bus crash

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Bulgaria, Kosovo and North Macedonia have begun holding official days of mourning for the victims of a fiery bus crash just outside Sofia, which killed 46 people, including a dozen children on Tuesday,  according to RFE/RL. 

Bulgaria’s government declared a day of mourning on Wednesday while there will be three days of mourning in North Macedonia during which flags will be lowered to half-staff and all public events will be cancelled.

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev who travelled to Bulgaria immediately after news of the crash broke, said that the two countries were cooperating fully to clarify the cause of the accident and to identify the badly charred bodies of the victims.

Seven survivors are in hospital in Sofia, where they are being treated for burns. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred early on Tuesday near the village of Bosnek, about 31 kilometers southwest of Sofia. Some reports said it appeared the bus had hit a highway guard rail, crashed and caught fire.

The bus was one of four travelling together from Istanbul to Skopje in North Macedonia and officials said the job of identifying the victims was complicated by the fact that some people are believed to have changed buses during stops.

Media in North Macedonia reported that police went to the Skopje offices of a travel company that is believed to have organized the trip to Turkey. No further details were immediately available.

Zaev, who visited the survivors in hospital, said the passengers were all from North Macedonia but appeared to include a Serbian citizen and a Belgian citizen.

Stevo Pendarovski, North Macedonia’s President, called the crash a “horrific accident” and said that he expects the authorities to conduct a full investigation to determine the “causes and responsibility for the tragedy.”