Bulgaria, Kosovo, and North Macedonia have begun holding official days of mourning for the victims of a fiery bus crash just outside Sofia, which killed 46 people, including a dozen children.
Bulgaria’s government declared a day of mourning on November 24, while there will be three days of mourning in North Macedonia during which flags will be lowered to half-staff and all public events will be canceled.
North Macedonia's prime minister, Zoran Zaev, who traveled to Bulgaria immediately after news of the crash broke, said that the two countries were cooperating fully to clarify the cause of the accident and to identify the badly charred bodies of the victims.
Seven survivors are in hospital in Sofia, where they are being treated for burns.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred early on November 23 near the village of Bosnek, about 31 kilometers southwest of Sofia.
Some reports said it appeared the bus had hit a highway guard rail, crashed and caught fire.
The bus was one of four traveling together from Istanbul to Skopje in North Macedonia and officials said the job of identifying the victims was complicated by the fact that some people are believed to have changed buses during stops.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov told reporters at the crash site that he had "never in my life seen something more horrifying."
Media in North Macedonia reported that police went to the Skopje offices of a travel company that is believed to have organized the trip to Turkey. No further details were immediately available.
Zaev, who visited the survivors in hospital, said the passengers were all from North Macedonia but appeared to include a Serbian citizen and a Belgian citizen.
Stevo Pendarovski, North Macedonia's president, called the crash a “horrific accident” and said that he expects the authorities to conduct a full investigation to determine the “causes and responsibility for the tragedy.”
Bulgaria, an EU nation of some 6.9 million people, has seen many deadly bus accidents over the past few years. In the most recent one, 17 Bulgarian tourists died in 2018 when their bus skidded on a wet road and overturned.
The accidents were often caused by poor road conditions, old vehicles, and speeding.
A total of 628 people died in road accidents in 2019 and 463 last year in Bulgaria, according to official data.