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photo: xinhuanews

Fire on crashed Taiwan tourist bus kills all 26 on board

A tour bus caught fire while carrying visitors from China to the airport for their flight home on a busy highway near Taiwan’s capital, killing all 26 people on board, making it the deadliest incident involving Chinese tourism in Taiwan.

24 of those on board were visitors from Liaoning province who had been scheduled to fly home that Tuesday (July 19) afternoon. The others killed were the driver and a tour guide, both Taiwanese.

The accident happened on the No 2 national highway in Taoyuan county, south of Taipei, where the island’s international airport is located, the county’s fire and rescue service said.

Lai Chi-chong, Taoyuan fire chief, said all of the victims died inside the bus. “There was not enough time for them to escape,” he told reporters.

Video from the scene showed both of the bus’s doors were pressed up against the highway’s guard rail, making them impossible to open.

Many of the bodies were badly charred, some of them piled in front of the unopened emergency exit, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency and other media reported.

There was no official announcement on the cause of the fire, although Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) and other media outlets reported that the bus apparently burst into flames after spinning out of control and smashing into the highway’s guard rail. CNA cited eyewitnesses as saying the bus had been giving off smoke and swerving from lane to lane prior to crashing and bursting into flames.

It was reported that drivers of other vehicles pulled over and attempted to put out the flames with fire extinguishers, but the fire had grown too large for them to put out.

Thirteen firefighting vehicles and 30 firefighters were sent to the scene but the fire apparently spread too rapidly, and once the flames were extinguished, the vehicle was heavily blackened.

The latest accident is likely to revive safety concerns surrounding the treatment of Chinese tourists, most of whom come on cheap group tours.