Taiwan bus fire: Tour turns into sad tragedy

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A fire ripped through a bus carrying tourists from China in Taiwan Tuesday, killing all 26 on board in the worst road accident to hit mainland visitors since a holiday boom to the island.

The disaster, which occurred as the tourists were heading to the airport for their flight home, was the latest in a series that have called into question Taiwan’s safety record.

Media footage showed the bus, with flames shooting from the front, rammed into an expressway barrier near Taipei.

The images showed thick plumes of smoke and burned-out wreckage at the roadside.

A police spokesman said the bus had caught fire before it crashed into the barrier but gave no reason.

“All the people on the bus died,” Lin Kuan-cheng, spokesman for the National Fire Agency, told AFP.

“At this stage it is still not clear why no passengers escaped from the bus.”

The Liberty Times newspaper quoted an unnamed eyewitness as saying passengers were pounding on the bus windows for help as the driver swerved sharply before the crash.

One image in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper showed two men trying to smash the windows of the burning bus with fire extinguishers as the doors of the vehicle remained shut.

A firefighter at the scene said there were no survivors still calling for help when they arrived.

The bodies were being retrieved from the vehicle Tuesday evening after police and prosecutors examined the site, said an AFP photographer at the scene.

The tour group of 24 people — three children, 15 women and six men — was from China’s northeastern city of Dalian, Taiwan’s interior ministry said.

A Taiwanese driver and Taiwanese tour guide were also killed, the National Fire Agency confirmed.

The group were on their way to Taipei’s main Taoyuan airport for a 4:30 pm flight back to Dalian after an eight-day tour of the island. The accident happened shortly before 1:00 pm.

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