The accident happened around 2am, the head of the fire safety department at the interior ministry, Nikolai Nikolov, said
At least 45 people, reportedly including 12 children, have been killed in a horror bus smash and fire in western Bulgaria.
A further seven passengers were rushed to hospital in capital Sofia with severe burns after leaping from the burning bus.
The country’s interim Prime Minister has described it as an “enormous tragedy” as authorities probe the causes of the 2am crash.
It is believed the victims included families returning from a long weekend in Istanbul.
The crash happened on Struma highway about 28 miles west of Sofia.
The head of the fire safety department at the interior ministry, Nikolai Nikolov, told private BTV television: “At least 45 people were killed after a bus caught fire and crashed, or crashed and then caught fire.”
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It has been reported by Bulgarian media that the flames erupted after the vehicle hit a guardrail, but officials have yet to confirm a cause of the crash.
Bulgarian interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev told reporters: “We have an enormous tragedy here.”
Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said: “People are clustered inside and are burnt to ash.
“The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before.”
North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said the coach party was returning to Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul.
Most of the victims were from North Macedonia, an official from the North Macedonia embassy in Sofia told BTV.
None of those who died have yet been identified, but unconfirmed reports claim 12 were children.
There had been 53 people on board before the accident which happened on Struma highway about 28 miles west of Sofia.
Zoran Zaev, North Macedonia Prime Minister, said of the incident: “The causes of the incident are being investigated.
“We do not know if all the passengers are our citizens, but we suspect so, as the bus has a Macedonian registration.”
He added: “I am terrified. This is such a huge tragedy.”
Those who were taken to hospital are understood to be in a stable condition, Reuters reports.
Deputy Chief Prosecutor Borislav Sarafov was reported to have said two possibilities for the tragedy were being considered, either ‘a technical malfunction or human error.’
He said work was under way to identify those who had died and that current information was that there were no Bulgarian citizens travelling on the bus.
An official from Sofia emergency hospital said the seven people receiving treatment had jumped out of the burning bus.
All were said to be in stable conditions.
North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said the coach party was returning to Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to Istanbul, Turkey.