BANGKOK • Thirteen people, comprising 12 Malaysian tourists and a Thai guide, were killed yesterday when a bus ran off a road into thick foliage in Thailand, a country with some of the world's most dangerous highways.
Investigators said the accident happened shortly after midday in Doi Saket district, 30km from the city of Chiang Mai.
The bus, carrying 23 people, hit a car and ran off a curve in the road, said provincial police chief Montri Sambunyanon.
The 10 other people, including the Thai driver, were injured in the crash and are being treated in hospital in Chiang Mai, he added.
In Malaysia, tour operator Chiu Travel said it had been informed by Thai authorities that 12 Malaysians and a Thai tour guide were killed.
"This is a real shock. We are all very sad," manager Terence Yung said by phone from the company's office in the southern state of Johor.
"We have also lost our tour leader. Some of the relatives are here. They are calm and sad. Some are crying. We are doing everything to help them."
Malaysia's Foreign Ministry put the number of Malaysians dead at 13. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy. The ministry expressed in a statement its "deepest condolences" to the family and friends of those killed.
Multiple images posted online by local news outlets showed a horrific scene as rescuers battled to reach those trapped inside the smashed bus, which had come to rest in thick foliage with its roof caved in.
Some of those still inside had suffered horrific injuries. In one picture, seven pieces of white sheeting had been draped to cover either bodies or body parts.
Deadly road accidents are common in Thailand. In a study this year on global road safety, the World Health Organisation found that Thailand had the world's second- most dangerous roads, with 36.2 fatalities for every 100,000 people.
It said the number of official reported road deaths a year in Thailand for 2012, the latest year for which there are figures, was 14,059, but added that its modelling suggested that the true figure is actually closer to 24,000 dead a year.
Tourism is a mainstay of Thailand's economy, accounting for around 10 per cent of gross domestic product, and the December-to-February period is peak season.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS