Swiss bus crash: 'Tragic day for Belgium'

2012-03-14 11:04
Brussels - The bus crash in Switzerland in which 28 people, including 22 Belgian schoolchildren died, is a tragedy for the country, Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said on Wednesday.

"The prime minster learned with dismay of the horrible accident that happened in Switzerland," said a statement from his office.

"This is a tragic day for all of Belgium," it added, saying he would be travelling to Switzerland himself later on Wednesday.

"His first thoughts go to the victims, to the members of their family and their loved ones," the statement added.

The Belgian authorities were doing everything they could to ensure that the families of the victims were kept informed and treated with dignity, it added. It was making arrangements to have them flown out and accompanied to Switzerland.

The coach crashed in a motorway tunnel on Tuesday night, Swiss police said.

Families headed for Switzerland

The bus, which was carrying 52 passengers, suddenly swerved to the right and smashed into the wall of the tunnel. Another 24 children were reported injured in the crash.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told RTBF radio two army aircraft would be used to fly the relatives to Switzerland.

"There are two planes ready to take off," at the military airport in Melsbroek, near Brussels, he said.

"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.

A psychological support team was also on hand, he added.

"Our first thought was the distress of the families," he said.

Loss for words

Peter Vanvelthoven, the mayor of Lommel, 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.

"I'm at a loss for words," Transport Minister Melchior Wathelet told RTBF radio. "Terribly hurt, terribly moved.

"We are all thinking like parents, with this terrible thought for those parents who will not see their children coming back today," he added.

"Yesterday evening, they were looking forward to seeing them and they won't see them again."

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