GIRONDE –– More than 40 people died today in a collision between a bus and a truck in southern France, authorities said.
Authorities said at least 41 people died inside the bus. They were cross-checking information on the passengers as they attempted to identify the victims, prosecutor Christophe Auger told reporters. It was unclear if the passenger list could be recovered since the bus caught on fire in the crash, he said.
Earlier, authorities said at least 42 had died.
“It was a bus carrying elderly people,” Mael Gohaud, a spokesman for the Gironde Prefecture, told CNN. “There are five people who are injured, and three people safe.”
In a statement, France’s President François Hollande called the accident “a great tragedy”. He said the relatives of the victims could be assured of “the solidarity of the whole nation”.
BFMTV, a CNN affiliate in France, said it was France’s worst road accident since 1982. The French government said the prime minister, the minister of interior and transport secretary of state had all headed to the scene of the accident.
The crash took place on the D17 highway in Puisseguin, near Bordeaux, in southern France, said Gohaud, the local government spokesman.
Scenes of horror, heroism and luck began to emerge as today wore on. One observer told BFMTV the scene looked like a war zone.
Puisseguin’s Mayor Xavier Sublett said on French radio and TV that the bus driver had survived the crash –– and saved lives.
The driver saw the crash coming and opened the bus doors so that people would be able to escape, the mayor said.
Eight people “escaped the flames”, BFMTV reported.
The crash took place at 7:30 a.m. today, said BFMTV, whose website described it as a head-on collision on a narrow road. Most of the victims of
the accident were on the bus. The driver of the truck was also killed, the station reported.
François Decauze, chairman of the Walking Club, to which the majority of victims belonged, said his wife would normally have made this trip. But she stayed with her mother, who was having a cataract operation, and skipped the fatal journey.
“My wife is a miracle,” Decauze told BFMTV.