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Tears as families identify bus dead

Relatives of the 28 people killed when a bus crashed inside a Swiss tunnel faced a heartbreaking task today - identifying the bodies, most of them children, ahead of their repatriation.

Family members, some sobbing, were driven from a hotel in the southern Swiss town of Sion to the nearby morgue, where the bodies of some of the 22 schoolchildren and six adults killed in Tuesday's crash were being kept.

"Where possible, the bodies will be shown to the families," said police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet. "In some cases this is not possible because the bodies are too badly injured."

Afterward, relatives visited the site of the crash inside the Tunnel de Geronde near the Swiss town of Sierre. Some carried flowers to the site where 21 Belgians and seven Dutch were killed.

The Belgian tourist bus carrying 52 people hit a wall less than an hour after heading home from a skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps. Twenty-four other children were hurt, some seriously.

Bornet said authorities were working to release the bodies of all the victims as soon as possible. Some still had to be identified. In Belgium, plans were being made to begin repatriating the bodies with military planes as early as tonight, and authorities announced that Friday would be a national day of mourning.

Investigations are under way to determine how a modern bus with two rested drivers and a tunnel considered safe could result in one of the deadliest crashes in Swiss history.

Olivier Elsig, prosecutor for the Swiss state of Valais, told a news conference that officials are looking at three possible causes - a technical problem with the bus, a health problem with the driver or human error.

Swiss and Belgian media reported that survivors of the crash claimed the driver had reached to change a disc on the onboard entertainment system shortly before the crash. It was unclear whether that could have contributed to the crash, and neither police nor prosecutors could immediately be reached for comment on the report.

A Catholic chapel in Sierre was opened to allow the public to pay their respects to the victims, and a memorial mass was planned at the town's Holy Cross church.

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