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17 Dec, 2008 07:01

Israeli bus tragedy claims 25 lives

Russia's Emergencies Ministry is sending planes with medical help to Israel, after a bus crashed on Tuesday killing 25 people and injuring dozens of others. Twenty-four of those killed are Russian citizens. There were 49

The injured, some of them in a grave condition, have been taken to the nearest hospital.

“Everything possible is being done to help the injured. Most of them are still in Yofeftal Hospital in the city of Eilat, some of them are being airlifted to neighbouring hospitals. The Russian Embassy in Israel is working hard to monitor this situation,” said Pyotr Stegny, Russia’s ambassador to Israel.

A spokesperson for the Russian Emergencies Ministry said that one plane is taking medical supplies and doctors, while a second plane has psychologists to help aid victims and relatives.

The employees of five Russian travel agencies were taking a tour around Israel to learn more about the hotels and sights they will offer to their customers. The trip was organized by an Israeli tour-operator.
The accident happened not far from the Egyptian border, near the resort city of Eilat. According to some eyewitnesses, the driver was overtaking at a dangerous bend.

After the accident, 40 Israeli ambulances rushed to the scene and the country's air force dispatched six helicopters to evacuate those seriously wounded to hospitals across the country.

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 has 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.

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.