Tour bus crashes in Taiwan, killing 26, mainly Chinese tourists

Investigators inspect a bus carrying tourists from mainland China that crashed and caught fire along an expressway, on July 19, 2016.
Investigators inspect a bus carrying tourists from mainland China that crashed and caught fire along an expressway, on July 19, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
A tourist coach in flames near the Taoyuan International Airport outside Taipei, Taiwan, on July 19, 2016.
A tourist coach in flames near the Taoyuan International Airport outside Taipei, Taiwan, on July 19, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

TAIPEI - Twenty-six people, mostly tourists from the Chinese mainland, were killed on Tuesday (July 19) when a tour bus slammed through a highway guardrail and burst into flames in Taiwan.

According to local media reports, the victims were trapped in the blazing bus after they failed to open the emergency exit, and burned to death or suffocated.

Among the victims were 24 tourists, who were believed to be from Liaoning province, a Taiwanese driver and tour guide. The tour group, which included three children, 15 women and six men, was from China’s northeastern city of Dalian, AFP cited Taiwan’s interior ministry as saying. 

Media reports say the crash is the worst road accident on the island in more than 20 years.

The fire spread quickly and the bus was gutted, its front burned away and its metal frame twisted by the blaze.

The Liberty Times newspaper quoted an unnamed eyewitness as saying passengers were pounding the bus windows for help as the driver swerved sharply before the crash. A firefighter at the scene said there were no survivors still calling for help when they arrived.

The tourists were reported to have arrived on July 11 for an eight-day holiday and were on their way to Taoyuan International Airport for a 4.30pm flight back to Dalian.  

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it had launched “emergency response measures” after the accident, and would send a team to the island to help handle the aftermath.

“We are highly concerned about the safety of our mainland compatriots,” spokesman Ma Xiaoguang, was quoted saying by state news agency Xinhua. 

It is not known what led the driver to lose control of the bus and what might have caused the blaze.

A police spokesman, however, 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 bodies of the victims remained inside the bus as police and prosecutors examined the site, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The last major road incident in Taiwan happened in 1992, when 20 kindergarten children and three adults died after a bus burst into flames while on an excursion in the north of the island.