Monday, 29 July 2013

Death toll rises in Italy coach crash: 'At least 36 dead' near Avellino

At least 36 people have been killed in southern Italy when a coach plunged 30m (98ft) down a steep slope, Italian media report citing rescue services.

The coach hit several cars before coming off a flyover near the town of Avellino, in the Campania region.

At least 11 people have been injured, some of them seriously, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.

The coach was taking about 50 people, including children, back to Naples following a pilgrimage, reports say.

The cause of the accident is not clear.

TV footage showed smashed vehicles on the flyover and shrouded bodies lined up by the side of a road.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted its photographer, Cesare Abbate, as saying he saw 30 bodies covered by sheets near the bus after the crash.

Rescuers at the scene confirmed at least 24 people had been killed.

A spokesman for the fire service said rescue operations were continuing and that four young children were among 11 pulled alive from the stricken coach.

State radio quoted police as saying the driver was among the dead, and Italian TV quoted people at the scene as saying about 49 people were on the bus. The bus looked as if it had partially split open.

Motorists and their passengers whose vehicles were hit by the bus stood on the highway near their vehicles. One car's rear was completely crumpled, while another was smashed on its side.

"The situation is critical," leading fireman Pellegrino Iandolo told Italian television.

"Our men are working to save as many lives as possible."

A police spokesman told the French news agency AFP that the number of victims could not yet be confirmed.

"We are still pulling people from the vehicle. Our priority now is to free the wounded," he said.

He added that the Naples-Bari highway had been closed to traffic because of the accident.

Reports say the bus smashed through a guardrail on the flyover. It came to rest in heavy undergrowth, which is hampering the rescue operation.

The injured are being taken to hospitals in Avellino, Salerno and Nola, Ansa said.

Italian news reports said the bus could hold a little more than 50 passengers and that it was almost filled on the ride back after an excursion from the southeastern Puglia area.

This is popular with Catholic faithful who admire Padre Pio, a late mystic monk who was based there. Most of the passengers were from the Campania area around Naples, ANSA said.

A reporter for Naples daily Il Mattino, Giuseppe Crimaldi, told Sky TG24 TV from the scene that some witnesses told him the bus had been going at a 'normal' speed on the downhill stretch of the highway when it suddenly veered and started hitting cars.

He said some witnesses thought they heard a noise as if the bus had blown a tyre. A local prosecutor arrived at the crash scene to begin an investigation into the cause of the crash.

Monday 29 July 2013


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