22 Children Killed
A TOUR BUS FROM BELGIUM CRASHED INTO THE SIDEWALL OF A TUNNEL in southern Switzerland near the Italian border. The bus was carrying 52 people when it veered off the traffic lane and into the wall for reasons still unknown. The collision killed 28 people including the two bus drivers and 22 school children who were on a class skiing holiday.
All of the victims were taken to four hospitals in the Valais canton and several helicopters were utilized. The Belgian Army is using two aircraft to take relatives of the victims to the location. Le Figaro continues:
"This is a tragic day for all of Belgium," said Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. He "learned with dismay" of the accident and he will travel to Switzerland today. "This tragedy will change the whole of Belgium," said the Belgian ambassador to Switzerland, January Luykx. All the victims came from two provinces of Belgium Flemish Brabant and Limburg. "I've never been there. The magnitude of the accident is difficult to digest (…) yet I focus on practical aspects," he added, "when I will have the emotional meetings with families."
The police commander said that this was a tragedy "unprecedented". Even the rescuers, yet seasoned, were upset, he added.
President of the Government of the Canton of Valais Jacques Melly expressed his "immense sadness" and "deep emotion". He offered condolences to the bereaved and expressed its thanks to the rescuers who worked "in very difficult conditions."
AP / SIPA
The crash occurred at 9:15 pm local time and the six adult fatalities included four teachers and the two bus drivers. The death of both drivers will make it difficult to reconstruct the cause of the driving mistake. Blick is reporting:
According to the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, two more buses were part of the convoy. These were however not involved in the accident and continued their journey. The 80 children in these two buses had heard nothing of the accident and continued on to safely arrive in Belgium.
Until two years ago, the students always traveled by train in the annual ski holiday, said the school administration. Why the trip took place with the bus for two years, was initially not known.
The identities of all the killed children is not clear. A spokesman for Valais cantonal police said that they must see DNA samples to identify many of them. This procedure is necessary because the bodies are mutilated beyond recognition.
For this reason, Belgium will send a specialised team for the identification of the victims to Switzerland. Interior Minister Joëlle Milquetie announced the deployment of the disaster victim identification unit today at noon.
Blick has the story and a 25-image photo gallery HERE.
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This report was prepared with the assistance of Christian Lewalter.