At least 45 people died when a bus caught fire and crashed on a highway in western Bulgaria on Tuesday, officials and local news outlets said.
The bus had North Macedonian plates, and most of the victims were from that country, BTV television reported, citing an official from the North Macedonian Embassy in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital.
Nikolai Nikolov, the head of the fire safety department at the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, told BTV that 52 people had been traveling on the bus when it crashed around 2 a.m. local time. BTV said the accident occurred on the Struma Motorway as it was traveling from Sofia to Blagoevgrad.
“At least 45 people were killed after a bus caught fire and crashed, or crashed and then caught fire,” Mr. Nikolov was quoted as saying, according to Reuters. He added that children had been among the victims.
Some people jumped through the bus’s windows to escape the flames, local news outlets reported. Seven people with burns and lacerations were taken to a hospital in Sofia, Maya Argirova, head of the burn clinic in Pirogov Hospital, told reporters.
Additional details were not immediately available.
Zoran Zaev, who announced in October that he would step down as North Macedonia’s prime minister and leader of the governing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia after his center-left party suffered defeat in local elections, expressed condolences to the families of the victims, BTV reported.
“I am horrified by the tragedy, I am sorry for the incident,” Mr. Zaev was quoted as saying.
On Twitter, Svetlan Stoev, the Bulgarian minister of foreign affairs, said in a post that there was “great sadness after the accident that took the lives of citizens.”
He said that Bulgaria would do everything to take care of the victims and find the cause “of the tragedy.”
In 2018, a tourist bus carrying 33 pilgrims from a village north of the capital to a monastery crashed near Sofia, killing at least 16 people and injuring 26 others.