Twelve die as Swiss bus plunges from cliff

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The Independent Online

A Swiss tourist bus plunged into an Alpine ravine near the Great St Bernard Pass, killing 12 people and injuring 15.

A Swiss tourist bus plunged into an Alpine ravine near the Great St Bernard Pass, killing 12 people and injuring 15.

At least 100 rescuers descended to the wreck on ropes in an effort to free trapped passengers from the wreckage yesterday.

Valais cantonal state police said some of the passengers were thrown from the bus when it went out of control and rolled down a steep slope. It then dropped into the ravine and came to rest in a stream 800 feet below the road, said the local police spokesman, Renato Kalbermatten.

He said it had been snowing in the area, but by the time rescuers arrived at the scene the road was only wet. But there may have been snow on the road when the accident occurred.

Swiss radio said about a dozen people were saved by being thrown clear of the bus before it went into the ravine.

At least a dozen ambulances stood by as mountain guides and climbers lowered themselves by ropes to the bus.

The bus was based in the Swiss capital, Bern, and was taking passengers to Savona in north-west Italy, where they were to board a cruise ship, said Heinrich Marti, manager of the bus company.

There were 24 passengers, two experienced drivers and a hostess on board the bus, the company said. The bus left its base near Bern at 6am and picked up more passengers at stops along the way. The accident occurred just before 10am.

The Great St Bernard Pass is one of the main routes through the western Alps near the borders of France and Italy.

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