At least 42 people died Friday in a collision between a bus and a truck in southern France, according to a local government spokesman.
“It was a bus carrying elderly people,” Mael Gohaud, a spokesman for the Gironde Prefecture, told CNN. “There are five people who are injured, and three people safe.”
In a statement, French President François Hollande called the accident “a great tragedy.” He said the relatives of the victims could be assured of “the solidarity of the whole nation.”
BFMTV, a CNN affiliate in France, said it was France’s worst road accident since 1982. The French government said the Prime Minister, the minister of interior and transport secretary of state were all headed to the scene of the accident.
The crash took place on the D17 highway in Puisseguin, near Bordeaux, in southern France, said Gohaud, the local government spokesman.
Head-on crash on a narrow road
Scenes of horror, heroism and luck began to emerge as Friday wore on. One observer told BFMTV the scene looked like a war zone.
Puisseguin Mayor Xavier Sublett said on French radio and TV that the bus driver had survived the crash — and saved lives.
The driver saw the crash coming and opened the bus doors so that people would be able to escape, the mayor said.
Eight people “escaped the flames,” BFMTV reported.
‘My wife is a miracle’
The crash took place at 7:30 a.m. Friday, said BFMTV, whose website described it as a head-on collision on a narrow road. Most of the victims of the accident were on the bus. The driver of the truck was also killed, the station reported.
François Decauze, chairman of the Walking Club, to which the majority of victims belonged, said his wife would normally have made this trip. But she stayed with her mother, who was having a cataract operation, and skipped the fatal journey.
“My wife is a miracle,” Decauze told BFMTV.