GENEVA: Tragedy was narrowly averted Tuesday when nearly 40 Belgian kids were evacuated from a burning bus near a Swiss tunnel, less than a year after 22 Belgian schoolchildren died in a horrific bus crash in the alpine country.
The 45 passengers, including 38 children aged 10 to 12, had been headed to a ski camp in northern Italy when the bus engine suddenly caught fire, police in the central canton of Uri said in a statement.
After discovering the flames at around 5:00 am (0400 GMT), the driver pulled over shortly before the Goeschenen entrance to the Gotthard road tunnel and evacuated the passengers.
Police, who have launched a probe to determine the cause of the blaze, said a replacement bus had taken the passengers on to Italy.
According to Belgium's Belga news agency, another bus from the same Belgian company, Les Autocars et Autobus Toussaint, had been driving behind the one that caught fire and the driver of the second bus had seen the flames and alerted his colleague to the danger.
The two drivers subdued the blaze until police and firefighters arrived at the scene, Belga reported.
The accident was eerily reminiscent of a Belgian bus crash in a Swiss alpine tunnel last March that killed 22 children and six adults.
The children who died were among 46 from two Belgian schools returning from a skiing holiday in the Alps. The adults were accompanying teachers and the two bus drivers.