52 killed in bus fire in Central Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan on map [Photo credit: RFE/RL]

A bus fire in north-western Kazakhstan killed 52 Uzbek citizens on a route used by migrant workers heading to Russia, the Kazakh Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

The bus was traveling along a road in the remote Aktau region that links the Russian city of Samara to Shymkent, a city in southern Kazakhstan close to the Uzbek border.

It was unclear in which direction the bus, a Hungarian-made Ikarus, had been traveling, but the route is widely used to transport Uzbek workers to and from Russia where they often take work on building sites.#

Only five people managed to escape the burning vehicle, the interior ministry’s emergencies department said in a statement.

The ministry said the apparent accident had happened at 1030 local time (0430 GMT), but provided no details about its cause. A photograph posted online from the site showed the bus completely burned out.

Video footage also posted on the Web showed it positioned diagonally across a two-lane freeway in the middle of a snow-covered steppe, in flames and emitting heavy black smoke.

Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement its embassy staff were en route to the area, roughly midway between the Russian border and the Aral Sea.

In October 2017, another Kazakh-operated bus carrying over 50 Uzbeks was hit by a train in Russia after getting stuck on the tracks; 17 people died in that accident.

(Reuters/NAN)


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