FREGINALS, Spain (Reuters) - At least 13 people were killed when a bus carrying a large group of foreign university students crashed early on Sunday midway between the Spanish cities of Valencia and Barcelona, authorities in the northeastern region of Catalonia said.
Eight of the 43 passengers had also been seriously injured.
The students were from at least 19 countries and many were part of the Erasmus exchange programme between European universities, emergency services in Catalonia said.
Regional leader, Carles Puigdemont, told a local radio station that all the victims were women.
The bus crashed and overturned at about 0600 CET (0500 GMT)on a road that runs along Spain’s eastern coast. After swerving onto the other side of the road, it had hit an oncoming car, injuring the two passengers.
The bus, which was carrying 61 passengers, according to estimates from the authorities, was driving away from Valencia on the last weekend of the Fallas festival, known for its big firework displays.
“There were students on board, many of them foreign students studying in Catalonia and in Barcelona who had travelled to Valencia for the Fallas and were returning,” Jordi Jane, Catalonia’s regional interior minister said at a televised news conference. He said the victims were all aged between 22 and 29.
The driver had been taken to a local police station, Jane said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear but was most likely due to “human error”, he said.
The driver had tested negative for alcohol and drug, a Catalan court said in a statement.
Catalonia’s emergency services said in a statement that passengers on board included students from Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Great Britain, Italy, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, the Palestinian Territories, Japan, Ukraine, Holland, France and Finland.
Authorities had not yet given the nationalities of the dead.
Initial estimates were that 14 people had been killed.
Additional reporting by Sarah White and Victor Tuda in MADRID; Editing by Louise Ireland