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Bus crash in Montenegro leaves 16 Romanians dead, 31 injured: minister

An injured woman is taken to an ambulance at the scene of a bus accident near Grlo, Montenegro, on June 23, 2013
An injured woman is taken to an ambulance at the scene of a bus accident near Grlo, Montenegro, on June 23, 2013. Sixteen people died and 31 others were injured when a Romanian bus crashed in a Montenegro gorge on Sunday in one of the most deadly road acc

Sixteen people died and 31 others were injured when a Romanian bus crashed in a Montenegro gorge on Sunday in one of the most deadly road accidents in the tiny Adriatic country.

The victims, all Romanian citizens, were passengers in a bus carrying tourists, mostly elderly, for a five-day visit to the Montenegrin coastal town of Tivat, police said.

The bus slid off the road into a gorge some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the capital Podgorica, in a mountainous region along the river Moraca, police spokeswoman Tamara Popovic told reporters.

Interior Minister Rasko Konjevic said earlier that "in an extremely serious accident, 13 people were killed and 32 injured, seven of them in a life-threatening condition."

But the toll rose to sixteen as one victim died of wounds after being brought to a hospital and two more were pulled out from a 50-meter (160-foot) deep ravine near the river Moraca.

Konjevic said the bus with 46 people on board had Romanian and not Ukrainian licence plates, as previously reported by the police.

An injured man is taken to an ambulance at the scene of a bus accident near Grlo, Montenegro, on June 23, 2013
An injured man is taken to an ambulance at the scene of a bus accident near Grlo, Montenegro, on June 23, 2013.

The identities of the victims have not yet been revealed.

The cause of the accident was still unclear, police said.

Witnesses said the bus started sliding on a bridge after exiting a tunnel and plummeted down the ravine.

The injured were being treated at a hospital in Podgorica and "most of them have suffered serious injuries," Vladimir Dobricanin, a doctor at the hospital, told Montenegro's state television.

One 12-year-old Montenegrin boy was also among the injured, he said.

Visiting the injured hospitalised in Podgorica's emergency centre, Romanian ambassador to Montenegro Mihail Florovici described the incident as a "huge tragedy" for his country.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic also visited the injured, as dozens of people were queuing to donate blood.

Dozens of rescue workers tried to pull out the victims by rope out of the gorge as the bus was in dense forest and could not be easily reached, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The bus was almost invisible from the bridge above, as it fell among rocks and dense pine trees.

Rescue workers made a human chain, carrying the rope while slowly stepping down through brushwood on the steep incline.

A helicopter was used in the rescue operation mounted by Montenegro police. Military units and firefighters were also at the scene.

Zeljko Darmanovic of the local rescue services said the extraction of the victims had been extremely difficult as heavy rocks had fallen over the bus.

"Thank God it did not crash into the river, no one would have survived then," said Vaso, a young man from the nearby village of Grlo who had come to help rescuers.

The road from mountainous northern Montenegro towards Podgorica and its part of the Adriatic coast has been the scene of frequent crashes due to dangerous curves and fast driving.

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