18 people confirmed dead in German bus crash
Eighteen people have been confirmed dead after a bus carrying German senior citizens crashed on a highway in Bavaria before bursting into flames.
Another 30 people were injured when the bus carrying the group crashed into a truck on the A9 highway in southern Germany on Monday morning.
Two of the injured are still in a life-threatening condition in hospital.
Police tweeted that the members of the group were between 41 and 81 years old and mostly from Saxony in eastern Germany.
Two drivers and 46 passengers were on the bus.
The accident took place at around 7am local time (6am BST) when the bus collided with a truck at the end of a traffic jam on the A9 highway near Muenchberg in Bavaria.
German chancellor Angela Merkel thanked the emergency crews involved.
"Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and we wish all those who were injured a speedy recovery," she said.
Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said at the crash site that it was not immediately clear what caused the initial traffic jam, but the bus seemed to have caught fire immediately.
"Two people are still in life-threatening condition," he said.
The remains of 11 bodies were recovered from the bus, and forensic experts were still poring through the charred wreckage to identify and remove other remains, he said.
Two drivers and 46 passengers were on the bus, police spokeswoman Irene Brandenstein said, adding it was not known if the driver at the time was dead or alive.
Some 200 emergency crew members were at the scene, and five helicopters whisked the injured to nearby hospitals.
Simple wooden coffins were wheeled in for the remains recovered from the twisted wreckage of the bus.
Mr Dobrindt said when firefighters first arrived, the bus fire was so hot that they could not get anywhere close to the burning vehicle to rescue those stuck inside.
He also said recovery work was difficult because the bus was so badly damaged.
"All they could do was extinguish the fire," he said.
"The heat was so strong that nothing that's inflammable is left from the bus - only the steel frame."
The A9 highway, the main thoroughfare from Berlin to Munich, remained closed on both sides for hours. Police tweeted later that the A9 road leading south would be shut down for the entire day.