Latest: German chancellor Angela Merkel pays tribute to victims and casualties after German bus bursts into flames

Update 16:49pm: German chancellor Angela Merkel thanked the emergency crews involved.

"Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and we wish all those who were injured a speedy recovery," she said.

Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said at the crash site that it was not immediately clear what caused the initial traffic jam, but the bus seemed to have caught fire immediately.

The remains of 11 bodies were recovered from the bus, and forensic experts were still poring through the charred wreckage to identify and remove other remains, he said.

Two drivers and 46 passengers were on the bus, police spokeswoman Irene Brandenstein said, adding it was not known if the driver at the time was dead or alive.

Some 200 emergency crew members were at the scene, and five helicopters whisked the injured to nearby hospitals.

Simple wooden coffins were wheeled in for the remains recovered from the twisted wreckage of the bus.

Mr Dobrindt said when firefighters first arrived, the bus fire was so hot that they could not get anywhere close to the burning vehicle to rescue those stuck inside.

He also said recovery work was difficult because the bus was so badly damaged.

"All they could do was extinguish the fire," he said.

"The heat was so strong that nothing that's inflammable is left from the bus - only the steel frame."

Update 15:13pm: Eighteen people have been confirmed dead after a bus carrying German senior citizens crashed on a highway in Bavaria before bursting into flames.

Another 30 people were injured when the bus carrying the group crashed into a truck on the A9 highway in southern Germany on Monday morning.

Two of the injured are still in a life-threatening condition in hospital.

Police tweeted that the members of the group were between 41 and 81 years old and mostly from Saxony in eastern Germany.

Two drivers and 46 passengers were on the bus.

Update 11:49am: German police believe 18 people have died after a bus carrying a pensioners' tour group crashed into a truck and burst into flames.

Officers said 30 others were injured, some seriously, and were taken to hospital for treatment after the crash in Bavaria.

The other people on board "are believed to have died on the burning bus".

Police spokeswoman Irene Brandenstein said the bus was carrying a German senior citizens' tour group.

Ms Brandenstein said the work was complex and labour intensive, given how badly damaged the bus was.

The highway remained closed on both sides for hours and police tweeted later that the road leading south would be shut for the entire day.

Firefighters and ambulance staff were quickly on the scene to rescue the injured.

Two drivers and 46 passengers were on board the bus, Ms Brandenstein said.

By the time firefighters arrived and extinguished the flames, the bus was reduced to a charred frame.

Police said the group on the bus came from Saxony in eastern Germany and that no children were on board. The German news agency dpa reported that all the passengers were German citizens.

A phone number has been set up to provide family members with information.

Ms Brandenstein had no immediate information on the condition of the truck driver.

The accident led to long traffic jams on the A9, the main thoroughfare from Berlin to Munich.

Update 11:22am: German police have confirmed "multiple fatalities" after a bus crashed into a truck on a highway in Bavaria before bursting into flames.

Bavarian police said on Twitter that "multiple passengers on the bus were killed" in the early morning crash near Muenchberg, close to the Czech border.

Officers did not provide details, but had previously said 17 people were missing after the crash.

Another 31 people were injured, some seriously.

Forensic specialists are being brought in from Germany's federal police office to remove and identify the bodies from the charred vehicle.

The accident took place at around 7am local time (6am BST) when the bus collided with the back of the truck at the end of a traffic jam on the A9 highway.

The road remained closed in both directions for hours.

Update 10.20am: A number of people are feared dead after a coach went up in flames when it crashed into a truck in southern Germany, injuring 31 people and leaving 17 others unaccounted for, police said.

Spokeswoman Irene Brandenstein said police were "afraid that people may have died in the accident" near Muenchberg in Bavaria on Monday morning.

She added that several people were severely injured in the crash. Two drivers and 46 people and were on the bus.

Rescue workers stand beside burnt-out coach on the motorway A9 near Muenchberg, southeastern Germany, Monday, July 3, 2017 after a bus crashed into a truck and caught fire.. AP.

German news channel n-tv showed images of the bus, which was burned down to a black, smoking skeleton.

Several helicopters and ambulances were on the scene to rescue the injured and the A9 motorway was closed in both directions because of the accident.

Ms Brandenstein said the bus crashed into the truck at the end of a traffic jam.

She had no information about what happened to the truck driver or who was on the bus and where it came from.

Earlier: A total of 31 people are injured and 17 others are unaccounted for after a coach which crashed into a truck in southern Germany burst into flames, police said.

Several people were said to have been severely injured in the crash near Muenchberg in Bavaria on Monday morning.

Two drivers and 46 people were on the bus, police spokeswoman Irene Brandenstein said.

German news channel n-tv showed footage of the bus, which was burned down to a black, smoking skeleton.

Helicopters and ambulances were on the scene to rescue the injured and the A9 motorway was closed in both directions because of the accident.

Ms Brandenstein said the bus crashed into the truck at the end of a traffic jam.

She had no information immediately about what happened to the truck driver.

AP


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