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France coach crash: At least 43 dead as bus catches fire after crash with truck in France

At least 43 people have died after a truck and bus carrying mostly elderly tourists collided and caught fire on a country road in south-west France.

Four others are seriously injured following the accident. Firefighters fanned out along the narrow road, between a wooded area and an upward slope near the village of Puisseguin, about 30 miles east of Bordeaux.

Eight people escaped from the bus after the driver opened the door, but others were trapped as the blaze consumed the vehicles, Puisseguin Mayor Xavier Sublett said on i-Tele television.

The mayor said later that the truck driver lost control of the vehicle. The bus driver "tried to avoid it, but the truck came and hit it, and he couldn't do anything except activate the mechanism to open the doors to allow some people to get out," Mr Sublett said.

Other authorities remained cautious about the circumstances of the crash. The top government official for the Aquitaine region, Pierre Dartout, told reporters an investigation is under way, and Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said it was too early to know what happened.

Police said the death toll was so unusually high because both vehicles caught fire.

Helicopters were evacuating severely burned victims, and scores of emergency workers were at the scene. Prime minister Manuel Valls and interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the site.

The truck was carrying lumber, according to BFM television. The bus was carrying elderly people from the town of Petit Palais on a one-day tourist trip to another area of south-west France, legislator Gilles Savary said. It had travelled just four miles when the collision occurred.

The weather in the region was overcast on Friday morning but not rainy.

Calling it an "immense tragedy," French President Francois Hollande promised an investigation into what happened. He also expressed "the solidarity of the whole nation" with loved ones of the victims.

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