28 dead as children's bus crashes in Swiss tunnel

Twenty-eight people, 22 of them children, were killed when a bus taking Belgian pupils back from a skiing holiday crashed in a Swiss tunnel, police said today.

Twenty-eight people, 22 of them children, were killed when a bus taking Belgian pupils back from a skiing holiday crashed in a Swiss tunnel, police said today.

Valais police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet said a total of 52 people were on board the bus.

Twenty-two children were among the dead and 24 other pupils were taken to hospital.

Police said the bus crashed at around 9pm local time yesterday in a tunnel at Sierre, near popular ski areas in the Swiss Alps.

A rescue helicopter and ambulances were called to carry the injured.

Police said the bus, carrying 12-year-old students from two different schools, veered and hit a kerb, then rammed into a concrete wall in the tunnel.

The front of the bus was heavily damaged and blocked people from getting out. The cause of the crash has not been determined.

The road was closed in both directions to aid in the rescue. Eight helicopters and a dozen ambulances took victims to hospitals.

Dozens of firefighters and police, 15 doctors and three psychologists were called to the scene.

A government spokesman said a crisis centre had been set up and an emergency number provided for families.

Police said the victims were all thought to be Belgians living in Flanders. Belgian media reported that the children were from two towns, Lommel, east of Antwerp, and Heverlee, near Leuven.

The local police commander called in the Belgian ambassador, Jan Luykx, who rushed to the scene.

Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister, said authorities were still identifying the victims.

"It is incomprehensible. There were three buses and only one was in (an) accident without any contact with another vehicle," he was quoted as saying on La Capitale's website. "It hit a wall in a tunnel."

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