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Deadly bus fire exposes lax traffic safety supervision

07-23-2011 16:51 BJT

ZHENGZHOU/JINAN, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Safety supervision targeting long-haul bus service in China has come under scrutiny in the wake of a fire that left 41 people dead and six others injured early Friday morning.

A total of 47 people were on board when a long-distance bus caught fire at 4 a.m. Friday on the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway near the city of Xinyang in central China's Henan Province. The accident was the deadliest of its kind in years.

The double-decker sleeper bus was on its way from the city of Weihai in east China's Shandong Province to Changsha, the capital of central China's Hunan Province.

Although the cause of the blaze is still being investigated, lax safety supervision might be to blame for the tragedy, as the bus was overloaded when the fire occurred, according to preliminary investigations.

A spokesman with an investigative team in Weihai said that the bus was not carrying any passengers when it departed from a local long-distance bus station at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The bus station is responsible for safety checks mainly to prevent passengers from carrying flammable or explosive materials.

However, GPS data showed that it made at least five stops in Shandong's cities of Weihai, Yantai and Jining cities, which suggests that the bus picked up passengers along the way, where safety checks are nonexistence.

The survivors of the fire told investigators that the vehicle was overloaded when it entered Henan.

The bus was designed to carry 35 passengers, but was carrying 47 at the time of the accident. Work safety officials in Henan believe that some of the passengers may have had flammable or explosive materials in their luggage. However, the officials also said that it did not seem that the bus had been stopped for safety checks during its 1,000-km journey from Weihai to Xinyang.

One of the injured is still in critical condition at the Zhumadian No. 159 Hospital, located in Henan's city of Zhumadian. The other five injured, including the bus driver, are being treated at a hospital in Xinyang and were described as being in stable condition on Saturday.

Local police said that several of the bodies recovered from the bus were burned beyond recognition, adding that they will have to be identified through DNA testing.

Ding Qingfa, who was slightly injured during the accident, said that he got on the bus with five friends in the city of Heze, which is located about 500 km southwest of Weihai.

"I was sleeping, but was woken up when I heard a loud 'bang.' I saw a large ball of fire and started running," Ding said.

He said that he and his friends were sleeping in the aisle because the bus was already full when they boarded.

"People were screaming inside the bus. The entire bus was on fire, with black smoke spiraling upward," he said.

Ding said he asked the driver, who had also fled the bus, whether there was a fire extinguisher available. The driver replied that it did not matter, as the fire was too big to put out with a fire extinguisher by that time.

Police are currently questioning the driver.

An investigative team from the State Administration of Work Safety has arrived in Xinyang to look into the accident.



Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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