20 die as cigarette sets fire to coach in Germany

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The Independent Online

At least 20 people died after a coach caught fire when a passenger illegally smoked a cigarette in its toilet.

It was returning from a day trip to a farm near the northern German city of Hannover on the autobahn yesterday.

When the toilet door was opened, flames shot out and quickly engulfed the bus, a fire service spokesman said.

"Passengers who were sitting close to the exit could get away, but the others had no chance," he said.

Thirteen people were also injured in the blaze, including three with serious burns.

The coach had 39 mainly elderly German passengers and the driver aboard and had been chartered by a tour group to go from Hannover on a day trip to a farm.

The coach apparently pulled off into an emergency lane before it was engulfed in flames, but many people were unable to get off in time.