Twelve people were killed and another 46 injured when two buses collided early Sunday in Algeria’s northeast, emergency services said, in the latest tragedy of its kind in the North African country.
Emergency teams arrived at “around 1:10 am (0010 GMT) following a fatal accident, a collision between two buses, on the state highway near the city of Astil” in the province of Biskra, 500 km southeast of Algiers, a statement said.
“Twelve people, aged 19 to 73, were killed and 46 were injured,” it added.
Public radio quoted Ahmed Baoudji, director of emergency services for the nearby city of El Oued, as saying preliminary investigations indicated speeding was the probable cause.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune offered his condolences to the victims’ families and asked Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad to oversee assistance, the radio added, while Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud and Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid went to the scene.
According to the national road safety commission, a government agency, 3,275 people were killed in road crashes in Algeria in 2019 and more than 30,000 injured — fewer than in previous years.
It also reported a small decrease in the number of accidents — almost 22,000 — compared to 2018.
Last month Tunisia and Morocco, which neighbour Algeria, were in mourning after two bus crashes that were among the deadliest in the region. On December 1, 30 people died in northwest Tunisia, and at least 17 were killed the same day in the north of Morocco.
Justin Trudeau’s re-election bid suffered a setback out of the gate when a bus carrying journalists collided with his campaign plane at a whistlestop in westernmost Canada, forcing him to fly a loaner Thursday.
According to reporters travelling with the Liberal leader, the collision occurred shortly after landing in Victoria late Wednesday on the first leg of a cross-country tour.
The media bus drove under and scraped the wing of the plane, they said. Trudeau had already left the airport. Pictures on social media showed a gash underneath the wing.
“There were no injuries and the damage to the plane is being assessed,” Liberal spokeswoman Eleanore Catenaro told AFP.
The mishap, she added, would not affect Trudeau’s busy schedule, which included campaign stops on Thursday in Kamloops and Edmonton.
A new plane was procured, but it does not feature Trudeau’s name and partisan branding emblazoned on it as did the original.
Commentators suggested that the accident was allegorical of Trudeau’s rough campaign start, in which he faced renewed criticism over his alleged meddling in the prosecution of a corporate crime.
“It’s only been a day and the Liberal election plane just got hit by a bus,” read one headline.
On Twitter, most appeared to laugh it off, with one post suggesting that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was giddy that the “left wing was damaged” in the crash.
Scheer’s own plane had been rerouted due to fog on its inaugural flight from Ottawa on Wednesday, forcing the candidate, his campaign team and reporters to disembark midway and take an hour-long bus ride to his first campaign event in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.
The buses were each carrying about 50 passengers at the time of the crash. One of the buses caught fire, leaving people burned beyond recognition.
Emergency services were at the scene, including firefighters who put out the blazing vehicles.
Kwame Arhin, a doctor at the Kintampo Government Hospital, said 28 people were being treated for head injuries and multiple fractures.
“Seven out of the 28 passengers who were rushed here are in critical condition,” he added.
Road safety fears
The cause of the crash was yet to be established but local media said a driver of one of the vehicles lost control after falling asleep.
“Some of the survivors are telling us that their driver was feeling sleepy at some point during that time of the night so he was asked to park but he refused,” Kintampo fire service commander Ankomah Twene told local station TV3.
“We believe it contributed to the accident,” he added.
A survivor, Rose Anane, said: “I was fast asleep then I heard a loud bang. We managed to break the glass and it was just a few of us –- about 10 –- who managed to move out.
“In a matter of seconds then the vehicle went on fire with the others still trapped in the car. We watched on as the fire consumed them. It was late into the night.”
The crash has renewed calls for the authorities to enforce traffic rules to reduce deaths and injuries on the country’s poorly-maintained road networks.
“We’ve been speaking to the local assembly to fix rumble strips on the road but they said this is a highway so it’s not possible,” said local resident Gifty Mintah. Rumble strips are a noise-making safety feature that alerts drivers when their cars are at the edge of the road.
“But people keep dying and for how long are we going to look on for people to keep dying?”
Crashes are common on highways in Ghana because of poor maintenance, disregard of traffic regulations and unroadworthy vehicles.
An average of six people die on the roads every day, according to the Motor Transport and Traffic Directorate (MTTD) of Ghana police.
In February 2016, 70 people were killed and 13 injured when two buses collided in the same town of Kintampo.
In July 2017, players from one of Ghana’s leading football clubs, Asante Kotoko, were victims of a crash in which their team bus rammed into the back of a stationary truck.
Not less than 26 people were burnt to death in an accident that occurred at the Ibadan end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway involving two commercial buses.
Eyewitnesses said the fatal accident occurred around 6:30am with both buses bursting into flames on impact.
The two 18-seater commercial buses involved had a head on collision while trying to overtake from their lanes at point a point where the road construction company handling ongoing construction on the road had diverted traffic.
Officials of the Federal Road Safety Corp, who were the first responders at the scene led by the Oluyole Unit Commander, Mrs Titilayo Olayiwola, confirmed the crash and disclosed that the corpses have been moved to Adeoyo Hospital, while the survivors were taken to University College Hospital and Ibadan Central Hospital.
The Public Relations Officer of UCH, Mr Deji Bobade, confirmed to Channels TV that one of the victims was brought to the hospital for treatment around 7am this morning.
Furthermore, the Public Relations Officer of the Oyo State Police Command, Adekunle Ajisebutu, confirmed that 26 people were burnt to death before any intervention arrived.
He said 11 people including children were injured in the crash and were being treated in the hospitals.