Image: Accident scene
AFP-Getty Images
Russian emergency workers look over the scene of the accident involving a passenger bus and a fuel truck in Samarskoye on Friday.
updated 7/24/2009 2:21:38 PM ET 2009-07-24T18:21:38

A tanker truck slammed into a bus on a highway in southern Russia on Friday, killing at least 21 people and injuring several others, officials said.

President Dmitry Medvedev demanded that authorities "create order on the roads," blaming bad roads, poor law enforcement and a "criminal lack of discipline" among drivers for Russia's high incidence of traffic fatalities.

"Such incidents do not occur anywhere, except maybe in the weakest, most backward states," Medvedev told members of his Security Council in comments shown on state-run television. "We are a mighty state."

The collision occurred in clear weather around midday 30 kilometers north of the city of Rostov-on-Don.

A provincial Health Ministry spokeswoman, Lyudmila Bondar, said 21 people were killed and eight were hospitalized with injuries. Emergency officials had put the death toll at 25, with four injured, and there was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

Televised footage showed emergency workers removing a blanket-covered body on a stretcher through a window of the bus, whose front half was smashed.

It appeared that the tanker truck veered into the oncoming lane and the bus driver swerved in an effort to avoid a crash, officials said. They said both drivers were killed.

Authorities initially said the truck was a gasoline tanker, but later said it was empty. There was no fire, officials said.

Saturday was declared a day of mourning in the Rostov province, 1,000 kilometers south of Moscow.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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