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19 Dec, 2008 04:05

Bodies of bus crash victims arrive home

The bodies of the Russians killed in the bus crash in Israel have been returned to St Petersburg. The plane that landed in the city late Thursday night brought back the bodies of all 24 people who died in a horrendous ro

The first woman from among those severely injured in the crash flew back to St. Petersburg on the same plane carrying the relatives of the dead, a spokeswoman for the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said.

On Tuesday, a bus taking a group of tour operators from St. Petersburg, who had arrived in the country on a fact-finding business trip, slid into a 60-metre-deep ravine off road 60 near the resort city of Eilat in the south of Israel.

According to Israeli Interior officials, the accident, that claimed lives of 24 people and left 25 injured, was caused by the driver who decided to overtake another bus.

The first ambulance reportedly arrived at the scene of the accident in less than 10 minutes. The Israeli authorities also sent helicopters and many doctors even rushed from private surgeries to treat the survivors.

Those injured are currently undergoing treatment at hospitals in five Israeli cities.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have offered condolences to the families of the victims. In a phone conversation Israeli President Shimon Peres informed his Russian counterpart about the help being provided to the injured. Peres instructed Israeli emergency services to cooperate closely with the Russian side.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has also expressed deep condolences in connection with the accident. According to her press service she contacted by phone St. Petersburg’s governor Valentina Matvienko and promised any help needed.

The spokesperson of the Israeli embassy to Russia, Alex Goldman-Shaiman, described the accident as one of the worst road crashes in Israeli history and says all possible reasons for it will be investigated, including driver error, technical problems and road defects.

The Russian Union of Tourism press secretary Irina Tyurina said that relatives of the tourism business workers that were killed and injured in the tragedy will get insurance payments, just like ordinary tourists, from the company with which they had an agreement.

Two information hotlines for relatives of the crash victims have been set-up:

Russian Embassy hotline: +9723-522-6744, +9723-5226736.
Israeli Ministry of Tourism hotline: +972-2-666-43-58

Deadly record in other countries

Egypt, Turkey and Thailand are popular destinations among tourists, Russians included. But it’s not rare that the perfect get-a-way turns into a nightmare.

Poor road conditions, overworked drivers and a lack of safety regulations, as well as other factors, have led to frequent road crashes in these countries.

Egypt has seen some of the worst accidents involving tourists. This year alone there have been at least nine crashes with multiple deaths. The most recent was in October, when six Belgians were killed en route from the southern city of Aswan to the ancient temple of Abu Simbel. 26 others were injured in the incident. At the time, speeding was blamed for the tragedy.

Turkey has also gained a bad reputation. In November, four tourists died and 25 were injured when their bus crashed on the way to Georgia.

In Thailand road fatality rate are also high. The country's accident research group says 13,000 people die in road crashes each year – that's approximately two people every hour. The government says 336 people died in traffic accidents last New Year in just four days.