More than 20 killed after Italian tourist bus crashes off Venice overpass

Bus carrying some 40 passengers veered off elevated overpass, plunged about 15 metres and caught fire, officials report.

Firefighters work on the site of a bus accident
Firefighters work at the site of a bus accident in Mestre, near Venice. [Marco Sabadin/AFP]

More than 20 people have been killed and 18 injured after a bus carrying foreign tourists crashed off an elevated overpass, plunged some 15 metres (50 feet) and caught fire near Venice in northern Italy, officials said.

The bus veered off the road on Tuesday evening at approximately 7:45pm local time (17:45 GMT), crashed through a barrier, plummeted onto electricity lines and caught fire, according to reports.

What caused the horrific accident was unclear.

Venice City Councillor Renato Boraso said the bus had been carrying 40 passengers, 21 of whom had died and 18 who were injured.

Boraso warned that the death toll could rise as several of those hurt in the crash were in a critical condition in hospital.

“It’s an appalling tragedy, the city is in mourning,” Boraso told Sky Italia television.

(Al Jazeera)

“An apocalyptic scene, there are no words,” Venice’s Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said in a post on social media.

Official mourning has been declared in Venice in memory of the victims, the mayor said.

[Unofficial translation: A huge tragedy struck our community this evening. I immediately ordered the city to mourn, in memory of the numerous victims who were on the fallen bus. An apocalyptic scene, there are no words.]

Five of the victims were Ukrainians and one was German, said Venice’s prefect Michele Di Bari, the local representative of the interior ministry. The bus was also carrying passengers from France and Croatia, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

“The bus is totally crushed. The firefighters had difficulty getting a lot of the bodies out,” Di Bari told Sky Italia television. He said two children were among the victims.

Late on Tuesday evening, rescuers were still struggling to remove the wreckage of the bus to make sure no more passengers were trapped inside.

“The scene the firemen had to deal with was really difficult, really bad,” said Al Jazeera’s Alexandra Byers.

The Veneto region governor, Luca Zaia, told RAI state television that the cause of the accident was still unclear.

“This is an important tragedy, but it’s difficult to understand how it happened,” Zaia said. “The bus was new and electric, and that street wasn’t particularly problematic.”

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her condolences, saying in a statement that her government’s thoughts were with “the victims, their families and their friends”.

Italy has been the scene of a number of deadly bus crashes in recent years.

In 2017, 16 people on board a bus carrying Hungarian students died in an accident near the northern city of Verona, while 40 people died in 2013 when a bus plunged off a viaduct in southern Italy.

Firefighters and rescue personnel work near a bus after it crashed off an overpass in Mestre
Firefighters and rescue personnel at the site of the crash [Manuel Silvestri/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies