Bahir Dar, Ethiopia – Two Ethiopian sisters who lived in Perth, Australia were among the 43 passengers killed in a fiery bus crash in Ethiopia on Tuesday.
Seble and Maza Getachew had lived in Perth for a number of years and studied at Curtin University as international students before recently relocating to Melbourne.
The pair, who were not Australian citizens, was believed to have travelled over with a 32-year-old Melbourne man, who was returning to his native country to take part in religious celebrations, according to his neighbours.
The Getachew sisters, aged in their 20s, were originally from the Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa but it is not yet known whether they were related to the Melbourne man, who was a permanent resident in Australia.
It is understood that they were with their mother and brother aboard the bus, which plunged about 80 metres into a gorge north of the capital Addis Ababa. The family is not believed to have survived.
Only three people out of the 46 passengers survived. A man from Tarneit in Melbourne’s west was initially pulled alive from the wreckage but died shortly afterwards.
The Australian man, believed to have two young children, pleaded with his rescuers to “please call my brother” in the final moments before he died, according to the Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter.
Neighbours in Tarneit said the man’s wife flew to Ethiopia following her husband’s death.
They said the man had travelled to Ethiopia shortly after Christmas to celebrate Timket, the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of the Epiphany, or the baptism of Jesus.
The festival, held on January 19, is known for its ritual re-enactment of baptism.
The Melbourne man was believed to be travelling from Addis Ababa to Gondar, about 750 kilometres north of the capital, when the crash occurred about 280 kilometres into the journey.
The domestic bus, operated by Sky Bus Transport, ran off the road and plunged at least 80 metres into the gorge and burst into flames, local media reported, although one news outlet said the gorge was about 120 metres deep.
The bus was less than three years old and was in good condition, The Reporter said. Of the 46 passengers on board, 43 died.
Survivors suffered serious injuries and burns, the African Press Agency said.
One person who came across the crash scene shortly after the impact said it was horrific.
“I was travelling from Birdar to Addis Ababa by another Sky Bus and I saw what happened on my own eyes [sic]. It was a very horrific scene,” wrote Haymanot on The Reporter website.
Another person claimed a British citizen and his mother who were holidaying in Ethiopia were among the victims.
Local police said the bus had been carrying 46 passengers, the driver and his assistant.
The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed a 32-year-old Victorian had died in an accident in the African country but would not comment on the two sisters since they weren’t considered Australians.
“Consular officials from the Australian embassy in Addis Ababa are seeking to contact the man’s family to provide consular assistance,” a DFAT spokesperson said this morning.
The crash happened on Tuesday, the department said.
A memorial service will be held for the two women in the Perth suburb of Maylands on Sunday.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald