Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

At least 26 killed in Tunisia after bus goes off cliff

Accident puts focus on perilous state of country’s roads

The bus plunged into a ravine in Ain Snoussi in northern Tunisia on Sunday, December 1, 2019. AFP
The bus plunged into a ravine in Ain Snoussi in northern Tunisia on Sunday, December 1, 2019. AFP

A bus plummeted off a hill in Tunisia on Sunday morning, killing 26 passengers who were on an excursion in the country’s north.

The private bus, with 43 people on board, set off from Tunis to the picturesque mountain town of Ain Draham 115 kilometres west of the capital near the Algerian border, a popular winter destination for Tunisians.

Ain Draham is located at an altitude of 800 meters on the slopes of the Djebel Bir, one of the Kroumirie mountains.

The bus was travelling through the Ain Snoussi region when it veered off a winding road after the driver failed to manoeuvre a sharp turn and plunged over the cliff, the Interior Ministry said.

Pictures and video shared online showed the mangled remains of the bus, with its seats scattered on a river bed.

Bodies and personal belongings were strewn on the ground.

The Health Ministry said the victims were between 20 and 30 years old. The injured were transferred to nearby Amdoun and Beja hospitals.

Forensic experts were sent to investigate the crash. It was not immediately clear what caused the accident but Tunisian roads are known to be notoriously dangerous.

Tunisian President Kais Saied and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed visited the site of the accident.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed interrupted a visit to the south of the North African country to return to the seat of government in Kasbah where a crisis centre has been set up.

Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi told radio station Mosaique FM that the “unfortunate accident took place in a difficult area” just after the bus drove around a sharp bend.

A civil defence official said there had been other deadly accidents at the same spot.

Social network users expressed sadness and anger at the tragedy. “What a heavy toll,” one said.

Another denounced the “roads of death” in Tunisia and wrote: “Twenty-four dead and no one from the government has declared a national catastrophe."

The World Health Organisation in 2015 said Tunisia had the second-worst traffic death rate per capita road in North Africa, behind war-torn Libya.

Experts blamed rundown roads, reckless driving and poor vehicle maintenance for a rise in accidents.

The authorities recognise the scale of the problem but have said the country’s security challenges, including terrorist attacks, have stopped them from paying more attention.

Following the tragedy, the Tunisian Soccer Federation said it would observe a one-minute silence before all scheduled games on Sunday.

Updated: December 2, 2019 02:37 PM

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