World

Taiwan bus fire kills 26 Chinese tourists

A fire ripped through a bus carrying tourists from China in Taiwan yesterday, killing all 26 on board.

It is 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 out from the front, ramming 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," Mr Lin Kuan-cheng, spokesman for the National Fire Agency, told AFP.

"At this stage, it is still not clear why no passenger escaped from the bus."

DOORS SHUT

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 calling for help when they arrived.

The bodies were being retrieved from the vehicle yesterday 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 - came from China's north-eastern city of Dalian.

A Taiwanese driver and Taiwanese tour guide were also killed.

The group was on its way to Taipei's main Taoyuan airport for a 4.30pm flight back to Dalian after an eight-day tour of the island.

The accident happened shortly before 1pm.

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