Eighteen people have been killed when they were trapped inside a tourist coach that caught fire after it collided with a slow moving lorry on a German motorway.
Thirty people were injured in the crash, which occurred shortly after 7am local time near the town of Stammbach, 56 miles northeast of Nuremberg, police said. Some were seriously injured.
The bus was carrying a party of holidaying German pensioners on their way to Lake Garda in Italy, and most of the victims were aged between 66 and 81, according to police.
All the dead were believed to be German citizens. Horrific accounts emerged of bodies found charred beyond recognition in the wreckage of the tourist bus. The coach driver was among the dead.
The driver of the lorry, who survived, said no one had been injured in the initial crash, but that the two vehicles caught fire almost immediately and many of the passengers were trapped inside.
The lorry was packed with beds and pillows which quickly caught fire and fed the inferno. Alexander Dobrindt, the German transport minister, said after visiting the scene the heat had been so intense that nothing was left of the bus but metal.
“You can imagine what that meant for the people on board,” he said.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, thanked the emergency services for their response. “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and we wish all those who were injured a speedy recovery,” she said in a statement.
The incident took place at a notorious accident black spot near the town of Münchberg in Bavaria. The A9, the main Autobahn between Berlin and Munich, runs through the Fichtel Mountains in this stretch and visibility is often impaired by the hilly landscape, sharp bends and rapid changes of weather.
Ten people were killed in a 121-car pile-up in foggy conditions in 1990, and 57 were injured in a 182-car incident caused by sudden heavy snow in 2003.
While much of the German Autobahn network has no speed limit, on this stretch variable limits are strictly enforced. But it appears the driver of the tourist coach did not see the much slower moving lorry ahead because it was just past the crest of a hill.
Around 200 rescue workers were involved in the desperate attempt to save those trapped inside the bus, and helicopters were used to ferry the injured to hospital. The passengers on the bus were a party of pensioners from Lausitz, an impoverished region of the former communist East Germany near Dresden.
“My thoughts and my deepest sympathy are with those who have been so suddenly torn from their lives, with their relatives and with the injured,” Dirk Hilbert, the mayor of Dresden said. “I hope the medical workers will be able to save the lives of the injured.”
Culled from Telegraph.co.uk