Belgium coach crash in Switzerland tunnel kills 28
At least 28 people – including 22 children – have been killed in a coach crash in a tunnel in Switzerland.
Another 24 children were injured in the crash near Sierre, in the canton of Valais, close to the border with Italy.
The coach, carrying 52 people back to Belgium, hit a wall in the tunnel head-on late on Tuesday. Both of the coach’s drivers were among those killed.
The children, from the Belgian towns of Lommel and Heverlee, were returning home after a skiing holiday.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who is travelling to the scene of the crash, said: “This is a tragic day for all of Belgium.”
The bus crashed shortly after 21:00 (20:00 GMT) on Tuesday.
In Brussels, the Belgian foreign ministry said most of the children were aged around 12, and the bus was one of three hired by a Christian group. The other two reached Belgium safely.
The children had spent a week skiing in Val d’Anniviers in the Swiss Alps.
Those on board the bus that crashed were from ‘t Stekske primary school in Lommel, close to the Dutch border, and from Sint Lambertusschool in Heverlee, near Leuven.
Some of the injured were flown by helicopters to hospitals in Lausanne, Bern and other Swiss cities.
Swiss prosecutor Olivier Elsig told a news conference the bus was new, or nearly new, and was equipped with safety belts.
In a tunnel where the speed limit is 100km/h (62 mph), Mr Elsig said the bus collided with the right-hand wall and then hit, head-on, a concrete wall that forms part of an emergency access section. An investigation is under way.
More than 200 people and eight helicopters were involved in the rescue operation.
Swiss journalist Ruth Seeholzer told the BBC that the two-lane tunnel was not busy with traffic when the accident happened and driving conditions were normal.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said: “It is incomprehensible. There were three buses and only one was in an accident, without any contact with another vehicle.”
A helpline for families has been set up, and many relatives are expected to arrive in Switzerland later.
Belgium has made two aircraft available to take them to Switzerland.
Belgium’s ambassador to Switzerland, Jan Luykx, has travelled to the crash site.
He said: “This tragedy will hit the whole of Belgium. The magnitude of the accident is difficult to take in. For the moment I am concentrating on the practical aspects. The emotional side will come when we meet the families.”
The head of the Valais region, Jacques Melly, expressed his deep sadness at the accident, sending his condolences to the families of the victims and praising the rescuers for their work in “extremely difficult conditions”.
- Switzerland coach crash kills 28, including 22 children – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Swiss Bus Crash Kills 28 Belgian Tourists – Sky News (news.sky.com)