Belgium PM: Swiss crash ‘a tragic day’

Belgium PM flies to Switzerland to see the coach crash site where 22 children were killed.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo flew to Switzerland after 22 children were reportedly killed in a coach crash in a tunnel. The children from the Belgium towns of Lommel and Heverlee were returning home from a school ski trip when the coach crashed near Sierre, in the canton of Valais, on Tuesday night.

“This is a tragic day for all of Belgium,” Prime Minister Di Rupo said in a statement.

At Heverlee, the atmosphere was fraught as it was not known who had died and who survived the crash. Twenty-eight people were killed in the crash 24 children were reportedly injured. “We know some of the children are OK, but we don’t have names,” said the headmaster of Sint-Lambertus.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, was to hold a minute of silence at noon.

The Belgian government said it was making arrangements to have relatives of the victims flown out and accompanied to Switzerland.

The bus, which was carrying 52 passengers, suddenly swerved to the right and smashed into the concrete wall of an emergency lay-by. Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said two army aircraft would be used to fly the relatives to Switzerland but officials later said they would leave in a single Airbus.

“The aim is to accompany the families who want to go to Switzerland,” said Reynders, who was speaking from Vietnam where he is on an official visit.

Peter Vanvelthoven, the mayor of Lommel in northeast Belgium, where some of the schoolchildren went to school, said they were also trying to help the families. “We have arranged a reception at the school, first for the parents, for the children and for the teachers, too,” he said.

The Belgian transport company that ran the coach that crashed was Toptours, based in Aarschot, central Belgium.

“The company … enjoys an excellent reputation,” Transport Minister Melchior Wathelet said.

“It has always respected the rules,” regarding safety, he added. The two coach drivers who died in the accident had arrived in Switzerland the day before.

with reports courtesy: AFP

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