SVKODNAKOREA — A bus carrying holiday makers, many of them South Koreans, slammed into a truck and overturned in Bulgaria on Saturday, killing at least 45 people and leaving many others injured, officials said.
Bulgaria’s Emergencies Ministry said 48 passengers and three people in the truck were injured in the crash in the early hours. A spokesman for the medical services in eastern Sofia said seven people were wounded. He said a decision had been taken to move the truck and passengers to hospital after midnight to avoid the risk of further casualties.
Flights have been canceled at the Sofia airport but airport workers said customs officials have already recovered the bodies of all passengers. An official from the South Korean Embassy in Sofia told Yonhap news agency that the embassy was in contact with the Bulgarian ambassador to confirm passengers’ status.
The bus was travelling from the Black Sea resort of Sunny Beach to an airport in Malia when it crashed with the truck at the border of the western Rhodope mountains.
A large crowd of local villagers rushed to help the injured, said Svetlana Petkovska, a 25-year-old law student. One of them went to the road to look for the driver and found him dead. “We brought out more people and we worked as a team for a while,” she said. “We got an unconscious passenger to an ambulance. She had injuries and blood everywhere. It was hard to do something more.”
Firefighters used five engines to control the fire, she said.
“The bodies were covered with black plastic sheeting and they were all lying on the ground there,” she said.
Passengers, some of them dressed in their nightclothes, rested in a hospital park. They had travelled on a bus that had stopped to eat in a park.
Elevator operator EASYGroup said its Sunline bus company owns the vehicle involved. It said in a statement that the passengers included many South Koreans and Poland.
Bulgaria’s government sent a presidential envoy to the accident and said its thoughts were with the victims. “I can only say, words cannot express my emotion,” Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said. “The president also calls for all efforts from all sides.”
Earlier on Saturday, emergency services had reported 20 people had been killed.
Sofia airport told Reuters it was closing temporarily because of the accident. “Due to the accident which took place in the most affected part of the airport, we have decided to cancel all flights from the morning to the evening,” the statement said.
Sofia’s other airport, at Hrvatska Belene, said it had not cancelled any flights. (Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Matthias Williams; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Peter Graff)