BELGIUM: Country holds national day of mourning to grief the victims of the Swiss bus crash that killed twenty eightRecord ID: 382831
- Title: BELGIUM: Country holds national day of mourning to grief the victims of the Swiss bus crash that killed twenty eight
- Date: 17th March 2012
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (MARCH 16, 2012) (REUTERS) FLAGS AT HALF MAST AT COUR D'ARBITRAGE FLAGS AT HALF MAST AT KING'S FOUNDATION BNP PARIBAS BUILDING WITH FLAGS AT HALF MAST ENTRANCE TO BELGIAN PARLIAMENT / FLAGS AT HALF MAST VARIOUS OF STREETS WITH SEVERAL FLAGS AT HALF MAST SWISS EMBASSY WITH FLAG AT HALF MAST FLAGS AT HALF MAST LOMMEL, BELGIUM (MARCH 16, 2012) (REUTERS) RED CROSS WORKERS GOING TOWARDS MEMORIAL / FLOWERS AND CANDLES IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL IN LOMMEL RED CROSS WORKER PLACING FLOWERS VARIOUS OF CANDLES ON A TABLE CLOSE OF LETTER AND A CANDLE (SOUNDBITE) (English) LOMMEL RESIDENT, COR WEVERS SAYING: "There are no words for this. There is only silence. I have also two grandchildren, imagine that they are after ten years, they are twelve, they go home from a ski holiday, and they come back like this. There are no words for this. There is only silence. We can hope, that the parents and the grandparents become better after some time. But I think, this will last twenty years." CANDLES FAMILY WALKING TO SCHOOL HEVERLEE, BELGIUM (MARCH 16, 2012) (REUTERS) CANDLES AND FLOWERS FLOWERS OUTSIDE MAIN GATE OF SCHOOL FLOWERS AND CANDLES ON THE GROUND
- Reuters ID: LVAA0R4VFX5X2X1VF28IDBRXU8ML
- Location: Belgium, Belgium
- Country: Belgium
- Duration: 00:02:29
- Topics: Accidents
- Story Text: Flags were hanging half mast all over Belgium on Friday (March 16), as the country marked a day of national mourning for the loss of lives of 22 children and six adults killed in a bus crash in Switzerland.
Belgium said it would hold a national day of mourning as parents of the victims and the first of the survivors headed home.
Of the 52 passengers on the bus, which was carrying school groups from the Belgian towns of Heverlee and Lommel home from a ski trip when it crashed into the wall of a tunnel on Tuesday night, only 24 survived. Some were still in critical condition on Thursday.
The bodies of the passengers killed, most of whom were about 12 years old, were all taken to the nearby Swiss town of Sion to be identified.
Swiss authorities said identifying some victims was so difficult that additional DNA testing was required. However, by late on Thursday, all had been formally identified.
The Belgian cabinet cancelled a meeting scheduled for Friday to mark the day of mourning. A minute of silence will be observed around the country at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) and flags flown at half-mast.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also ordered that Dutch flags on public buildings be flown at half-mast on Friday. Six Dutch children were killed in the crash and a further four were injured. The town of Lommel is right by the Dutch border.
Belgium provided a plane to bring back the parents of the children who died. Three Belgian military Hercules C130 planes arrived at Sion airport on Thursday to fetch the bodies.
In Lommel and Heverlee the grieving community laid flowers and candles outside the schools.
Children placed drawings at the gates with messages to the victims.
"There are no words for this. There is only silence. I have also two grandchildren, imagine that they are after ten years, they are twelve, they go home from a ski holiday, and they come back like this. There are no words for this. There is only silence. We can hope, that the parents and the grandparents become better after some time. But I think, this will last twenty years," said one resident, Cor Wevers.
Swiss authorities were carrying out an autopsy on the bus drivers' bodies to see if they might yield clues to the cause of the accident.
Some Belgian and Swiss media ran reports that the driver had been occupied inserting a DVD just before the crash, saying this is what some surviving children had told their parents.
Olivier Elsig, the Valais prosecutor who is investigating the crash, cast doubt on this.
Christian Varone, chief of police of the Swiss canton of Valais, where the accident took place, said there were many possible explanations of the crash and that police would take into account witness statements from surviving children.
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