Taiwan tourist bus fire kills all 26 on board
A tour bus carrying visitors from China has caught fire on a busy highway near Taiwan’s capital, killing all 26 people on board, officials said, in the deadliest incident involving Chinese tourism to the island.
The accident took place on the No 2 national highway in Taoyuan county, south of Taipei, where the island’s international airport is located, the county’s fire and rescue service said.
It said 24 of those on board were visitors from Liaoning province who had been scheduled to fly home on Tuesday afternoon. The others killed were the driver and a tour guide, both Taiwanese.
Lai Chi-chong, Taoyuan fire chief, said all of the victims died inside the bus. “There was not enough time for them to escape,” he told reporters.
Video from the scene showed both of the bus’s doors were pressed up against the highway’s guard rail, making them impossible to open.
Many of the bodies were badly charred, some of them piled in front of the unopened emergency exit, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency and other media reported.
There was no official word on the cause of the fire, although Taiwan’s official CNA and others reported that the bus apparently burst into flames after spinning out of control and smashing into the highway’s guard rail.
CNA cited eyewitnesses as saying the bus had been giving off smoke and swerving from lane to lane prior to crashing and bursting into flames.
The drivers of other vehicles pulled over and attempted to put out the flames with fire extinguishers, but the fire had grown too large for them to put out, CNA said.
Photos from the scene showed flames and thick black smoke pouring from the front of the bus after the crash.
Thirteen firefighting vehicles and 30 firefighters were sent to the scene but the fire apparently spread too rapidly, and once the flames were extinguished, the vehicle was heavily blackened.
The latest accident is likely to revive safety concerns surrounding the treatment of Chinese tourists, most of whom come on cheap group tours.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and the sides have no formal ties, although contacts have been growing in recent years to handle trade, travel and other practical, nonpolitical matters.
However, relations have deteriorated since the January election of independence-leaning Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, and Chinese visitor numbers have declined steadily in recent months, dealing a major blow to the island’s travel industry.