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At least 42 killed in bus inferno during Chinese rush hour

The inferno is the deadliest bus incident in China in over a year.

A photo posted to Twitter by Chinese agency Xinhua shows the remnants of the gutted bus.
A photo posted to Twitter by Chinese agency Xinhua shows the remnants of the gutted bus.
Image: Xinhua via Twitter

AT LEAST 42 people have died after fire engulfed a bus in minutes during rush hour in the Chinese city of Xiamen – the country’s deadliest road accident in recent years.

Images on Internet news portals showed a burnt-out shell was all that remained of the vehicle, which caught fire in the city, in the southeastern province of Fujian, at about 6:30pm (1030 GMT), according to the the official Xinhua news agency.

Online pictures also showed survivors with bloodstained clothes sitting stunned, and thick, black plumes of smoke rising from the vehicle as it burned on an elevated road.

Xinhua reported 42 fatalities and another 33 passengers injured in the blaze while the Fujian Daily newspaper said 48 people had died.

Some online reports said about 100 people were on the bus, which was on fire for 10 minutes before it was destroyed by a series of explosions.

Witnesses said ambulances took away “many” injured people from the site, Xinhua said.

One passenger told the news agency that she had smelled gasoline before the blaze quickly engulfed the vehicle.

A local official said the bus caught fire 500 metres from the Jinshan bus stop, which appears to be in a residential area of the city.

The accident was under investigation, Xinhua added.

China’s roads are highly dangerous, with traffic laws and safety widely flouted.

In 2011, more than 62,000 people died in traffic accidents, state media said, citing police figures.

Last August, at least 36 people died when a double-decker sleeper bus slammed into the rear of a methanol tanker and burst into flames, China’s worst traffic accident in more than a year.

That accident, in northern Shaanxi province, was the deadliest since a fire on an overcrowded sleeper bus carrying flammable materials killed 41 passengers in central China in July in 2011, according to the country’s work safety watchdog.

More recently, a fireworks-laden truck exploded as it crossed a bridge in central China in February, killing 26 people as the structure collapsed and vehicles plummeted to the ground.

Although accidents on China’s popular urban bus network are less common, many buses are crowded with both standing and sitting passengers.

BRT networks, which now operate in many of China’s heavily congested cities, provide faster bus travel by using roads designated for public transport.

The BRT system in Xiamen was closed following the accident, the Southern Metropolis Daily said.

The news filtered through late on Friday, but thousands took to China’s hugely popular online message boards to pay tribute to the dead.

- © AFP, 2013

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