Update 2:30 PM – Seven people who leapt from the burning bus were rushed to the Pirogov emergency hospital in Sofia and were in a stable condition, hospital staff said. They had suffered burns and one had a broken leg, according to Reuters.
At least 45 people including 12 children died as a bus crashed in flames on a highway in western Bulgaria hours before daybreak on Tuesday, officials said, according to Reuters.
The coach, which was carrying mostly North Macedonian tourists back to Skopje, crashed on a highway, causing the deadly inferno. Seven people were taken to a hospital in Sofia with injuries.
Bulgaria’s interior ministry said 45 people died, making it the most deadly bus accident in the Balkan country’s history.
“Bodies were clustered inside and are burnt to ash. The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before,” Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov told reporters at the site.
The cause of the crash is currently unclear, though Bulgarian investigative service chief Borislav Sarafov said potential causes were “human mistake” or “technical malfunction.”
The accident happened on Struma highway about 45 km (28 miles) west of Sofia around 2:00 a.m. (0000 GMT), Bulgarian officials said. The coach party was returning to Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul, a trip of about 800 km (500 miles).
North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he had spoken to one of the survivors who told him the passengers were sleeping when they were woken by the sound of an explosion.