The bus had been carrying passengers home to North Macedonia after a trip to Istanbul when it crashed and caught fire near the town of Pernik at around 2am (local time).
Seven passengers survived and were taken to hospital with burns after climbing out of the windows of the bus left in tatters.
More than 45 people have died in a bus crash in Bulgaria. Picture: Georgi Paleykov/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Bulgaria’s Interior Minister confirmed there was 45 deaths, marking it the deadliest bus crash in Bulgaria’s history.
“The picture is terrifying, terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before,” he told reporters at the scene.
The mayor of the nearby village of Pernik said the motorway was in “poor condition” and that there were often accidents in the area.
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There have been a dozen children killed in the horror bus crash. Picture: Getty Images
Bulgaria’s Interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev called the incident an “enormous tragedy”.
“I take this opportunity to send my condolences to the relatives of the victims,” he told reporters.
“Let’s hope we learn lessons from this tragic incident and we can prevent such incidents in the future.”
The vehicle had been travelling with three other buses which were carrying mostly North Macedonian passengers back from a trip to the Turkish capital of Istanbul.
Authorities are yet to name the victims but they have disclosed 12 children, and many young people aged between 20 and 30 were on board.
The local mayor said the stretch of highway is a hazardous areas which often has accidents. Picture: Getty Images
Macedonian Prime Minster Zoran Zaev said he had spoken to one of the survivors who revealed the passengers were woken by the sound of an explosion.
“He and the other six survivors broke the windows of the bus and managed to escape and save themselves,” he told reporters.
The cause of the crash has not yet been made clear but Bulgarian officials confirmed the bus had destroyed around 50 metres of the crash barrier before it burst into flames.
Bulgarian investigative service chief Borislav Sarafov said authorities were working on two theories which may have caused the crash.
“Human mistake by the driver or a technical malfunction are the two initial versions for the accident,” he said.
In the hours after the crash, relatives of those on the bus had gathered outside the tourism company which organised the trip’s offices in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje looking for information.

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