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Balkan neighbors mourn victims of bus fire in Bulgaria

SOFIA, BULGARIA – Bulgaria and North Macedonia began a period of national mourning on Wednesday, a day after a bus traveling through Bulgaria carrying tourists to neighboring North Macedonia crashed and caught fire, killing 45 people .

The bus with 52 people on was one of a group of buses returning from a trip to Turkey. Although the exact cause of the crash has yet to be determined, the bus appears to have ripped through the highway railing, quickly engulfed in flames, and completely burned down. A dozen children were among the dead.

Bulgaria held a day of national mourning on Wednesday while North Macedonia began a three-day period. Flags of all state agencies are flown at half-mast while entertainment events are cancelled.

Pope Francis also sent a condolence telegram conveying his prayers, especially for the families of the youngest victims.

“Particularly mindful of the children who have passed away, he praises the souls of the departed at the mercy of the Almighty, and assures grieving families and those who have been injured of his prayers. yours”, the telegram signed by the Vatican secretary. of the state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Seven survivors were rushed to the main emergency hospital in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, with severe burns and multiple injuries on their bodies.

North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani visited the hospital on Wednesday, telling reporters he was there to see patients and facilitate communication between family members and facilities in Bulgaria.

Forensic doctors from Skopje, the North Macedonian capital, are also expected to join their Bulgarian colleagues in Sofia to conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies of those killed in the crash.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov told reporters at the plane site on Tuesday that he had never “seen something more horrifying” and that the identification process would take time. “The people on the bus were all turned to coal,” Rashkov said.

Among the survivors were five North Macedonians, one Serb and one Belgian, according to North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry.

Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said almost all of the dead were ethnic Albanians, but it was not clear if they were citizens of North Macedonia.

The burned-out shell of the bus was towed on a lorry Wednesday, escorted by police on the outskirts of Sofia.

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Nicole Winfield in Rome attended.

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