Wednesday 29 January 2020

Swiss bus crash: injured girl awakes from coma

One of three girls seriously injured in Tuesday's coach in Switzerland has awoken from an induced coma, said a statement on Friday from the Lausanne hospital to which the children were taken.

"She has been fully conscious since yesterday and she is fully conscious," said the statement, noting the girl could also talk.

The hospital said the child suffered multiple fractures and a spinal cord injury.

Her two companions, also suffering from multiple fractures and trauma, "must still be kept in an induced coma" for neurological reasons.

The hospital said that it was too early to say if the three patients were completely out of danger.

The nature of the injuries meant there needed to be some delay before the precise treatment could be decided upon, the hospital said.

Belgians observed a minute of silence and church bells tolled across the grieving nation on Friday as the bodies of 22 children and six adults killed in a Swiss coach crash were flown home.

Soldiers carried small white coffins out of two military planes after they landed near Brussels, a day after parents undertook the traumatic task of identifying their children in Switzerland and visited the crash site.

As Swiss officials sought to find the cause of Tuesday night's accident, children, parents and teachers clutched hands in the courtyards of two schools in Heverlee and Lommel during a national day of mourning.

With flags flying at half-mast, Belgians everywhere held a minute of silence at 11:00am (1000 GMT) before church bells rang in remembrance of the young victims whose deaths have shocked the nation.

Broadcasters went quiet while drivers of buses, metros and trains switched off their engines for a minute as Belgium coped with an outpouring of grief for children who were no older than 11 or 12.

In the central town of Heverlee, pupils released white balloons as adults sobbed days after a bus carrying 46 children, four teachers and two drivers slammed into an Alpine tunnel wall as they returned from a week-long ski trip.

"It is very important to feel like we are all united," said Marie Pia, a mother of three who lives near Heverlee's Sint-Lambertus school. "Today, the north and the south of Belgium are united."

Six of the 24 children injured in the horrific accident returned home overnight. Fourteen others were to return later Friday while four of the children were in too grave a condition to leave Swiss hospitals.

The coffins of the 28 victims were escorted back to their hometowns.

The dead include 22 Belgian nationals and six Dutch children. One of the children had dual British-Belgian nationality.

In the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his "entire cabinet feels the same: shock, powerlessness and especially deep compassion for all those affected".

Flowers, teddy bears, candles and notes have been left by well-wishers at the gates of the two Catholic primary schools in Heverlee and Lommel, located near the Dutch border.

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