At least 21 dead after Italian bus falls from Venice overpass

The Italian flag waves in front of The "Altare della Patria" also known as "Vittoriano" downtown Rome

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) -At least 21 people died on Tuesday after a city bus carrying tourists to a campground crashed off an overpass near Venice in northern Italy and caught fire, the city's prefect Michele Di Bari said.

The bus veered off the road and fell close to railway lines in the district of Mestre, which is connected to Venice by a bridge. The cause of the accident was still unclear.

Officials said the vehicle fell 30 metres (98 feet) onto electricity lines and caught fire at around 7:45 p.m. local time (1745 GMT).

"It's an apocalyptic scene. I am speechless," Venice's Mayor Luigi Brugnaro posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The head of the local firefighters said the victims so far identified were Ukrainian tourists. Italian news agency ANSA said Germans as well as Ukrainians were among the passengers.

Di Bari said he could not confirm this.

Italy has suffered a number of deadly bus crashes in recent years.

In 2017, 16 people on board a bus carrying Hungarian students died in an accident near the northern city of Verona, while in 2013, 40 people died when a bus plunged off a viaduct in southern Italy in one of the country’s worst road accidents.

"The bus is totally crushed. The firefighters had difficulty getting a lot of the bodies out," Di Bari told Sky Italia television. He said 21 people had died, including the Italian driver and two children.

In Italy, the prefect acts as the local representative of the interior ministry.

Venice's city hall later said 18 people were injured and had been taken to nearby hospitals, with four in a serious condition.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her condolences, saying in a statement that her government's thoughts were with "the victims, their families and their friends."

(Additional reporting by Emilio Parodi, Alvise Armellini, Gavin Jones; Writing by Gavin Jones and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)