Bus crash kills 24 tourists

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A bus full of newly arrived Russian tourists veered off a desert road and plunged down a ravine yesterday, killing at least 24 people and seriously injuring about a dozen more.

The crash, north of the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat, was one of the worst Israeli road accidents for years. Soldiers, police and rescue workers rushed to the scene and army helicopters helped evacuate dozens of injured survivors.

"I saw people flying out of the windows as the bus rolled down the slope," said a motorist who was passing. Bodies, baggage and bits of wreckage were scattered over the steep slope from the highway, and the bus lay on its side on rocky ground. An officer shouted orders through a bull-horn as stretcher teams laid out a long line of white plastic body-bags.

Israel's airport authority said the victims had just arrived from St Petersburg at Ovda airport, which serves Eilat.

The resort, at Israel's southern tip, borders on Jordan and Egypt and is a particularly popular spot for Russians who come for winter sunshine.