15 Mar 2012

Children die in Swiss bus crash

6:03 am on 15 March 2012

A Belgian coach has crashed into the wall of a tunnel in Switzerland, killing 28 people, including 22 children aged about 12.

Police say it crashed near Sierre in the canton of Valais, which borders Italy, on the group's way back to Belgium from a skiing holiday camp.

Twenty-four other children aboard the bus were injured, some of them seriously.

Both of the coach's drivers were among those killed, the BBC reports.

The children, from primary schools in the Belgian villages of Lommel and Heverlee, were returning home after a skiing holiday.

Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who is travelling to the scene of the crash, said: "This is a tragic day for all of Belgium."

Ten of the children involved are Dutch, the Dutch foreign ministry said, with all but one of them living in Belgium.

Belgian Transport Minister Melchior Wathelet said the two drivers had rested during the day before departure and it appeared the law on driving and rest periods had been followed.

The Swiss prosecutor, Olivier Elsig, said the coach hit a concrete wall that forms part of an emergency access section head-on.

Mr Elsig said the bus was new, or nearly new, and equipped with seat belts.

The vehicle was one of three hired by a Christian group. The other two reached Belgium safely.