Hong Kong cancels Chinese New Year fireworks to mourn bus crash victims

Firefighters sorting through the debris after a double-decker bus overturned in Hong Kong, on Feb 10, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - A spectacular fireworks display staged annually over Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour to mark Chinese New Year will be cancelled this year as the city mourns victims of a deadly bus crash, it was announced Monday (Feb 12).

A speeding double-decker overturned in northern Hong Kong on Saturday evening, killing 19 and leaving more than 60 injured, some critically.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims in a message to the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

It was the second deadliest bus accident in recent years in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city, which prides itself on having one of the world's best public transport systems.

As Hong Kong went into mourning, the government responded to mounting pressure from lawmakers to call off the fireworks scheduled for the second day of Chinese New Year on Saturday.

Chinese tradition says the seventh day after a death is when the spirit of the deceased returns to bid farewell for the last time.

"Residents are grieving and want to express their sombre mood, and their respect and care for the dead and injured," said Lam.

Scores of residents flooded Red Cross centres on Sunday to donate blood for the injured, local media reported.

A 30-year-old driver has been arrested for dangerous driving but the accident has also reignited concern over working conditions for bus drivers.

Lam has pledged an independent investigation and called for a broad examination of the city's bus franchise system.

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