Swiss press question crash tunnel's safety

2012-03-15 13:02

Sion - The Swiss press on Thursday raised questions about the safety of the tunnel where a bus crashed and killed 22 school children and six adults from Belgium as they returned from a skiing holiday.

The daily Blick set the tone, with a big black cross on the front page.

The mass circulation newspaper said words could not express the pain of the victims' families, noting that Tuesday, March 13, when the accident occurred, would be "a black day for the history of our country".

Le Matin wrote that "they should have gone home yesterday", but instead the children's parents had to come to Switzerland to retrieve the injured ones or to identify the victims' bodies.

The Belgian health ministry said that all 24 children injured in the bus accident have now been identified.

Two Belgian military C-130 transport aircraft were at the disposal of the government to repatriate the crash survivors as early as Thursday.

Wall blamed

At the same time, the Swiss press questioned the safety recesses in the Sierre tunnel where the tragedy occurred.

Geneva-based Le Temps asked, "Will the speed limit be lowered for heavy vehicles or will the design of the safety recesses be modified?"

The bus had entered the motorway tunnel which has a speed limit of 100km/h and, for reasons still unknown, it hit the right edge of the roadway and struck head on the emergency stop's concrete wall.

The Sierre tunnel was built in 1999 and has the most modern ventilation standards, emergency exits, signalling and energy supply, Le Temps quoted the Swiss roads department as saying.

The Zurich daily Tages-Anzeiger also examined the angled safety recesses along the wall of the tunnel into which the bus crashed.

"Due to that wall, a collision has occurred," the report said, noting that this type of construction is common in Swiss tunnels.

The coach, which was carrying 52 passengers, was travelling from the Val d'Anniviers ski resort towards the Swiss town of Sion on the A9 motorway when the accident happened on Tuesday evening.