At least 21 people have died and 15 were injured after a tourist coach crashed off an overpass near Venice in northern Italy.
The coach was carrying a group of tourists who were returning to a campsite in Marghera after spending the day in Venice, according to reports in the Italian media.
Officials said the vehicle fell 30 metres (98ft) on to electricity lines and caught fire at about 7.45pm local time.
Those on board included Ukrainian, German and French citizens, according to Venice prefect Michele Di Bari. Two of the dead were children. The Italian driver, aged 40, was also killed, Di Bari said.
“The bus is totally crushed. The firefighters had difficulty getting a lot of the bodies out,” Di Bari told Sky Italia television.
Four of the injured were in serious condition, said Renato Boraso, a Venice city official.
The coach veered off the road in Mestre and landed close to railway lines where it caught fire, TGCom24 reported.
Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, said the bus “flew 30 metres”.
“It seems that the aggravating factor of the scenario was determined by the fact that it [the bus] was powered by methane, therefore the fire developed quickly,” he told TG1.
Mestre is connected to Venice by a bridge. The cause of the incident is unclear.
“It’s an apocalyptic scene. I am speechless,” Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Sky Italia reported that 18 bodies had so far been dragged from the wreckage after the coach caught fire, with numerous others injured.
“There are many deaths, too many,” the fire service told TGCom24.
The Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, expressed her “deepest condolences for the serious accident that occurred in Mestre”.
“Our thoughts go out to the victims and their family and friends,” she said.
The coach had reportedly been privately hired by a campsite for its guests.
“I heard heavy braking, I thought it was a train,” one witness, called Leonardo, told LaPresse news agency. “Then I heard a thud. I was alarmed and outside I saw smoke and heard people screaming for help.”
He then rushed to the scene. “As I reached the bus, the screams turned into a blood-curdling silence,” he said. “I wanted to help but was stopped by a friend and a policewoman, because the bus was still on fire and at risk of explosion.”
However, the commander of the Venice Municipal Police, Marco Agostini, was quoted by Italian news agency Ansa as saying that preliminary findings showed there were “no signs of braking”.
European leaders sent their condolences.
“Our thoughts are this evening are with the Italian people, the families and loved ones of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” said the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and those injured, and her thoughts to Italy’s leaders in what she described as a “moment of great pain”.
Charles Michel, the European Council president, said: “I am deeply saddened by the terrible bus accident in Mestre this evening.”