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Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 22:29

26 killed as tourist coach catches fire in Taiwan

By Agencies
26 killed as tourist coach catches fire in Taiwan
A tour bus catches fire on a highway to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan, July 19, 2016. (Photo by China Times/ Asianewsphoto)

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A tourist coach caught fire in a highway near Taoyuan Airport on Tuesday, killing 26 people on board, including 23 tourists from the Chinese mainland's northeastern Liaoning province.

The other three were the mainland guide, the driver and the tourist guide, both the latter from Taiwan, according to Taiwan authorities. The cause is under investigation.

Of the tourists, 14 women and seven men died as well as three children — two 13-year-olds and a 12-year-old, according to a passenger manifest distributed to media by the travel agency that organized the trip.

They were heading to the airport after an eight-day tour of the island, according to local authorities.

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

The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has launched emergency response measures, said office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang.

"We are highly concerned about the safety of our mainland compatriots," Ma said, adding that a work team will be dispatched to Taiwan to help handle the aftermath of the incident.

The tour was organized by Liaoning Overseas Travel Service Company. The Liaoning Provincial tourism bureau said it has set up a team to investigate the incident and is trying to verify the names of all the people who registered with the company for the tour.

The tourist firm is licensed to organize tours in Taiwan, said an official with the provincial tourism bureau.

The Tourism Bureau of Dalian City in Liaoning Province confirmed that 21 of the victims from the mainland were from Dalian, while the other three came from Heilongjiang, Jilin and Hunan provinces.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of Liaoning Province has contacted its counterpart in Taiwan over the tragedy and required its branch in Dalian to connect with the family members of the victims and prepare to send personnel to Taiwan to deal with the aftermath.

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

An arrangement will be made as soon as possible for the relatives of the victims to go to Taiwan, said Man Hongwei, director of the Taipei Office of the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits.

26 killed as tourist coach catches fire in Taiwan
A tour bus catches fire on a highway to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan, July 19, 2016. (Photo/IC)

CNA and others reported that the bus apparently smashed into a roadside barrier and caught fire. Photos from the scene showed flames and thick black smoke pouring from the cab of the bus.

Many of the bodies were badly charred, some of them piled in front of the unopened emergency exit, CNA and other media reported.

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.

The 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, CNA said.

Thirteen firefighting vehicles and 30 firefighters were sent to the scene, but the fire apparently spread too rapidly. By the time the flames were extinguished, the vehicle had been heavily blackened from one end to the other.

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