Nine people were killed and 34 others were injured, of which 11 seriously, when a Greek KTEL long-distance bus fell over a 120-meter cliff near the Albanian town of Tepelene during a heavy storm on Monday night.


The accident occurred when the driver of the KTEL bus, which carries out the Athens-Tirana-Athens itinerary, braked suddenly to avoid crashing into a truck that was obstructing the road, but the vehicle swerved and went over the cliff.

The bus, carrying 49 passengers, had set off from Tirana at 7:00 p.m., and 2 1/2 hours later, in heavy rainfall, it had reached a very narrow point on the Tirana-Kakavia road, between Tepelene and Ballsh, where a truck was taking up most of the road. The bus driver braked to avoid the truck, but the bus veered off course on the slippery road and went over the cliff. A few minutes later, Greek businessmen driving by saw the distressed bus and alerted authorities, and rushed to the passengers' assistance.

The businessmen managed to extricate a pregnant Greek-Albanian woman and an injured young Albanian man, and rushed both to a hospital in nearby Ballsh hospital with their car.

Albanian rescuers completed extrication of the passengers of the bus in the early hours of Tuesday.

Apart from the Greek-Albanian woman, who lives and works in a cafeteria in Ioannina and was returning from a brief visit to see relatives in Tirana, and the bus' Greek driver, who was lightly injured, all other passengers were Albanian nationals.

Earlier, Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas contacted his Albanian counterpart Edmond Haxhinasto and offered to send Greek rescuers to help, while he also placed Ioannina Hospital on stand-by.