Horror bus crash kills 12 people on religious pilgrimage after vehicle skidded

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At least a dozen religious pilgrims headed to a shrine have died after their vehicle skidded off a highway.

The crumpled remains of the blue bus were pictured off to the side of the busy road, the A4 motorway in Podvorec, which lies around 30 miles north of Croatia's capital, Zagreb.

At least 12 Polish citizens were killed and 31 hurt, according to reports.

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State TV network HRT reported that the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel during the 15 hour drive south from Warsaw, which is over 930 miles away by car.

Harrowing images show how the roof of the vehicle warped after the impact, with scene pictures also showing people's clothing inside the bus.

"All the victims are Polish citizens – we can at this point confirm this," a Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman told broadcaster TVN24.

"The bus has Warsaw registration plates."

The pilgrims were heading to Medjugorje, a Roman Catholic shrine in southern Bosnia, according to Croatia's interior ministry.

The site became a shrine after six local children reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1981.

The shrine, located 12 miles (20km) east of the Croatian border, is the Europe's third most popular pilgrimage destination after Lourdes, in France, and Fatima in Portugal.

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Polish embassy staff are on their way to the scene, officials say.

Police said emergency responders rushed to the location of the crash at around 5.40am this morning.

Investigators are working to understand the circumstances leading up to the crash.

Traffic has been restricted as police work to rescue any surviving passengers.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he had spoken to his counterpart, who had assured the "full support of Croatian medical services".

Meanwhile Croatia's foreign minister expressed his condolences to the victims' families.

"The Croatian people stand in solidarity with Poland and its citizens," he tweeted.

The Polish foreign minister echoed his counterpart's message of sorrow, thanking Croatia for its assistance.

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