Belgian Day of National Mourning for Coach Crash Victims

Belgium is holding a day of national mourning to remember the victims of the Switzerland coach crash.

Belgium is holding a day of national mourning to remember the victims of the Switzerland coach crash.

Relatives of the victims visited the crash site on Thursday

A minute's silence will be held at 11:00 (10:00 GMT) and flags will be flown at half mast.

Twenty-eight people, 22 of them children, were killed when the coach struck the wall of a tunnel on the way back from a school skiing trip.

Eight of the injured children were flown home to Belgium on Thursday, but many survivors are still in hospital.

The four most seriously injured children are being treated at hospitals in Lausanne and Bern.

Family members of the dead children who had travelled to Switzerland visited the crash site on Thursday, some laying flowers in the tunnel.

They also faced the daunting task of identifying their children's bodies.

By Thursday evening all of the 28 dead had been identified.

Repatriation

Swiss authorities earlier said that DNA evidence would be needed to identify some of the bodies as they were so badly damaged, Reuters reports.

Belgian military Hercules planes are expected to repatriate the identified bodies on Friday.

Most of the victims of Tuesday night's disaster were around 12 years old. Seven of the dead had Dutch nationality; the others were Belgian.

The authorities have refused to comment on suggestions in Swiss and Belgian media that the coach driver may have been changing a DVD at the time of the crash.

Swiss police spokesman Renato Kalbermatten said CCTV from the tunnel did not confirm the disk theory, which he described as "pure speculation at this stage".

All the adults on board the coach were killed in the crash.

The group had spent a week skiing in Val d'Anniviers in the Swiss Alps and were travelling home on one of three buses hired by a Christian group. The other two coaches reached Belgium safely.

Those on board the bus that crashed were from the Stekske primary school in Lommel, near the Dutch border, and from St Lambertus in Heverlee, near Leuven (Louvain).

Pope's message

A memorial service was held in Lommel on Thursday evening.

Police there said 2,500 people attended the service, at St Joseph's Catholic church next to the school, AFP reports.

Rows of chairs were set up outside the church for residents to watch the service on a large screen.

A message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI was read out.

A Vatican statement said the Pope was praying for the bereaved families and expressed his deepest sympathy for the injured and the emergency workers. He had conferred a special apostolic blessing on all affected by the tragedy.