At Least 45 Dead, Including Children, After Bus Catches Fire in Bulgaria

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
November 23, 2021 Updated: November 23, 2021

At least 45 people have been killed, including children, after a bus caught fire on a highway in western Bulgaria early on Tuesday, officials have said.

The incident occurred on the Struma highway about 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Sofia, near the village of Bosnek, at around 2 a.m. local time, as per local reports.

While the cause of the accident is currently unclear, the bus, which reportedly has a Macedonian registration and was mostly carrying North Macedonian tourists, appeared to have hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire, Bulgarian officials said.

Bulgarian investigative service chief Borislav Sarafov said, “Human mistake by the driver or a technical malfunction are the two initial versions for the accident.”

Television footage showed the bus charred and gutted by fire in the middle of the highway, which was wet from rain.

“On the 31st kilometer of the highway, there was an accident with a bus in which 52 people were traveling, as a result of which a fire broke out; 45 people died. The director of ODMVR is managing the situation on the spot. The operative-investigative actions are still going on, but the fire is due to an accident. The other victims were taken to hospital, their condition is not serious,” the head of the fire safety department at the interior ministry, Nikolai Nikolov, told local news outlets.

Among the dead were 12 minors, including two twins, BGNES news agency reported. Officials have yet to confirm the age of the victims.

North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said the coach party was returning to the capital Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to the Turkish city of Istanbul, according to Reuters.

The area around the site on the Struma motorway has now been sealed off.

Bulgarian interim prime minister Stefan Yanev traveled to the scene, where he told reporters, “We have an enormous tragedy here.”

“People are clustered inside and are burnt to ash,” Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov told reporters at the site.”The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before.”

Some people jumped through the bus’s windows to escape the flames, BGNES news agency reported, citing comments from Prof. Maya Argirova, head of the burn clinic in Pirogov, who added that seven people with burns and lacerations were taken to the hospital in Sofia.

The section of the highway in which the incident occurred is known as a problem area, and multiple accidents have occurred there, according to officials. Roadworks were carried out in the area over the summer to repair holes, road expert Diana Rusinova told BTV.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.