Seventeen people have died and three more injured after a minibus plunged from the mountain road between Shatili and Tbilisi.
Three women were brought to the First University Clinic in Tbilisi. The clinic’s director, Levan Ratiani, told journalists on Monday that they remained in critical condition.
The accident took place near the village of Biso in Dusheti Municipality on Sunday evening.
According to the Interior Ministry, the minibus was transporting tourists back from Shatili when it fell around 80 metres down a cliff. The police have launched an investigation into a possible violation of traffic safety rules.
Mzekala Arabuli, a spokesperson for the Mayor of Dusheti, told Rustavi 2 that the minibus crashed into an empty car before falling off the cliff.
Police have interviewed the head of tourist agency Traveler.ge, which organised the tour in Shatili. InterPressNews quoted an employee of the company as saying that the police were interested in the identities of the tour participants.
Condolences to the families of the victims have poured in, including from the president, Mayor of Tbilisi, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Parliament, as well as from opposition leaders.
‘A shocking tragedy happened near the village of Biso. I express my condolences to the families of the victims’, Archil Talakvadze, Speaker of Parliament said on Monday adding that he hoped doctors would manage to save the injured.
The opposition United National Movement wished ‘speedy recovery’ to the injured.
The government has announced Tuesday as a day of mourning and flags will be lowered to half-mast on all administrative buildings throughout Georgia.
Condolences also came from Georgia’s neighbours, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov expressing condolences.
I was deeply saddened to learn of a tragic car accident in #Dusheti municipality that has left behind many innocent victims.
My sincere condolences to the families of the victims and speedy recovery to the injured.
— Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) August 24, 2020
Very saddened to hear about the tragic road accident on the Shatili highway in Dusheti municipality of #Georgia. We express condolences to the families of those killed in the accident & wish speedy recovery to the injured. Our support & solidarity is with friendly People of 🇬🇪!
— Jeyhun Bayramov (@bayramov_jeyhun) August 24, 2020
According to the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads, there were 5,839 road accidents in Georgia in 2019 killing 481 people and injuring 7,921.
The organisation’s head, Eka Laliashvili, said that the Shatili tragedy was a good illustration of the scale of the challenge facing drivers on Georgia’s roads.
‘For years we have been highlighting the fact that around 500 people die and 8,000 people are injured every year — the majority of these being young people’, Laliashvili told OC Media.
She said that the problem required action from not only the government but society as well.
‘In the past months, measures taken by the government to the fight COVID-19 showed that if there is a political will it is possible to take on serious challenges.’
Laliashvili pointed out that while 17 people had died from COVID-19, the same number died in a single accident in Shatili.
‘If the government makes more effort to fight road accidents we will save hundreds of lives. It is time the Prime Minister took an interest and made it a priority to reduce the number of victims of road accidents’.