A bus fire that killed 12 children and more than 34 adults in Bulgaria may have been caused by fireworks and oil smuggled inside the cargo hold.
Only seven people survived the blast, which took place on the Struma motorway in south-west Bulgaria at around 2am on November 23.
It has now been claimed that 30,000 firecrackers and a ton of oil were being smuggled in a secret fuel tank in the cargo hold.
The horrific experience has been described by one of the seven survivors as something straight out of a horror movie, with thick smoking filling the bus almost immediately while people screamed desperately for help.
The bus was travelling at 100 kph (62 mph) on its way from Istanbul to North Macedonia’s capital of Skopje when it crashed and caught fire resulting in the death of 46 passengers.
Four-year-old twin boys were among those killed in the crash.
The fire that engulfed the bus was so intense that many of the victims were burned beyond recognition with forensics teams sent to try to identify the bodies.
Lulzim Sulejmani, one of only seven survivors of the crash, has spoken to local media for the first time.
Lulzim, from the Presevo Valley southern Serbia, told Klan TV: “The bus hit the pavement on the right side and the wheels got punctured.
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“The bus then burst into flames and began to fill with smoke. The bus continued to roll forward for about 20 meters before coming to a stop.”
He added: “People started vomiting and screaming – it was like a horror movie. I managed to escape by smashing a window with a hammer. I took my fiancee and five other people with me.”
The fire only took a couple of minutes to engulf the entire bus that was operated by the travel agency “Besa Trans”.
An investigation has found that the fire started at the front of the bus where an illegal tank was being used to carry 1000 litres of oil, reported Infomax yesterday.
The oil is believed to have contributed greatly to the fire and may explain why the flames erupted so suddenly and spread so rapidly.
The investigation also found that the bus was also being used to smuggle an estimated 30,000 firecrackers into North Macedonia.
According to Infomax, the firecrackers are believed to have exploded, reducing the time that passengers had to get off the bus.
The role of the allegedly smuggled oil and firecrackers on the blaze has not yet been confirmed by the authorities there are still carrying out investigations.
Zoran Zaev, The Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, is currently in Bulgaria liaising with local authorities and meeting survivors.