At least 42 people, mostly elderly tourists starting off on a day trip, have been killed after a bus and truck collided on a rural road in wine country in south-west France.
UPDATE (12.28): French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: "Forty-two people were killed in atrocious conditions in this bus in flames after this very violent frontal collision."
He said the passengers were “elderly people who were going on an excursion for one day”. He said they should have returned home on Friday evening.
Mr Valls added: “It’s a terrible shock for the area, for (the region) Aquitaine, for France.”
Four others are seriously injured following the accident. Firefighters fanned out along the narrow road, between a wooded area and an upward slope near the village of Puisseguin, about 30 miles east of Bordeaux.
Eight people escaped from the bus after the driver opened the door, but others were trapped as the blaze consumed the vehicles, Puisseguin Mayor Xavier Sublett said on i-Tele television.
The mayor said later that the truck driver lost control of the vehicle. The bus driver “tried to avoid it, but the truck came and hit it, and he couldn’t do anything except activate the mechanism to open the doors to allow some people to get out,” Mr Sublett said.
Other authorities remained cautious about the circumstances of the crash. The top government official for the Aquitaine region, Pierre Dartout, told reporters an investigation is under way, and Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said it was too early to know what happened
Police said the death toll was so unusually high because both vehicles caught fire.
Helicopters were evacuating severely burned victims, and scores of emergency workers were at the scene. Prime minister Manuel Valls and interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the site.
The truck was carrying lumber, according to BFM television. The bus was carrying elderly people from the town of Petit Palais on a one-day tourist trip to another area of south-west France, legislator Gilles Savary said. It had travelled just four miles when the collision occurred.
The weather in the region was overcast on Friday morning but not rainy.
Calling it an “immense tragedy,” French President Francois Hollande promised an investigation into what happened. He also expressed “the solidarity of the whole nation” with loved ones of the victims.
All the victims of the collision between a bus and truck near Bordeaux are believed to be French, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Most of the victims were elderly people from south-west France heading on a day trip, according to a French politician.
Gilles Savary said on BFM television that a bus company from the town of Libourne was leading the group on a tourist trip.
Mr Savary called it one of the worst crashes in recent years in the region.
French president Francois Hollande, on a visit to Greece, said the government was “totally mobilised” to help after what he called a “terrible accident”.
The bus was carrying mostly elderly people from nearby towns on a one-day tourist trip to another site in south-west France, and had just left when it collided with the truck, politician Gilles Savary said on BFM television. He called it one of the deadliest accidents in recent years.
French media reports said some people managed to escape, notably by breaking windows. Their condition is unknown as yet.
The weather in the region was overcast this morning, but not rainy.