Taiwan tour bus flips over, killing at least 32, says national fire agency

Cranes hoist the frame of a bus early this morning (Feb 14, 2017) which crashed after an accident on a highway in Taipei.
Cranes hoist the frame of a bus early this morning (Feb 14, 2017) which crashed after an accident on a highway in Taipei.PHOTO: REUTERS
 Rescuers tend to the injured beside a crashed tourist coach near Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday (Feb 13, 2017).
Rescuers tend to the injured beside a crashed tourist coach near Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday (Feb 13, 2017).PHOTO: EPA
Recovered bodies of victims are lined up near a bus crash site at a highway in Taipei on Monday night (Feb 13, 2017).
Recovered bodies of victims are lined up near a bus crash site at a highway in Taipei on Monday night (Feb 13, 2017).PHOTO: EPA
Rescuers recover bodies of victims from a bus crash site at a highway in Taipei on Monday night (Feb 13, 2017).
Rescuers recover bodies of victims from a bus crash site at a highway in Taipei on Monday night (Feb 13, 2017).PHOTO: EPA
At least 32 people die and 12 are injured in a bus accident near Taipei.

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwan bus reported to have been taking local tourists home from visiting seasonal cherry blossoms careered off a highway Monday night leaving 32 dead, the national fire agency said.

Local media said the passengers had been returning from a trip to a farm in central Taichung when the bus came off the road in eastern Taipei.

The national fire agency said 32 people had been killed, with 13 still being treated in hospital, most with serious injuries.

"The passengers are all Taiwanese and mostly older people," said Chen Chih-min from Taipei City fire department, which confirmed the crashed vehicle was a sightseeing tour bus.

The bus carrying 45 people was left flipped over on the side of the road.

Reports said the top of the vehicle was torn open and some of the passengers tossed out.

Around 100 rescuers rushed to the scene.

Police are investigating whether the bus was speeding at the time, according to local media.

Victims were laid out at the scene covered in white cloths, a reporter at the crash site said.

A cabinet statement said the island's premier Lin Chuan "expresses his condolences to people killed in the accident and instructs the health ministry... to make all efforts to save the injured".

An emergency response centre has been set up to deal with the aftermath.

According to reports, the bus was 19 years old and belonged to an agency that runs tours across Taiwan.

It comes after another bus crash outside Taipei in July last year killed 25 Chinese tourists on board.

Investigators said the driver of that bus intentionally set fire to it in a suicide bid before it veered into a crash barrier.

Su Ming-cheng, who was driving the group to the airport, was drunk when he poured petrol over the driver's seat and on the floor near the exit before sparking the fire with a lighter, investigators said in September.

The incident prompted Chinese authorities to demand the island take measures to improve safety for mainland visitors.