At least 32 people were killed when a tour bus reported to have been taking local tourists home from visiting seasonal cherry blossoms crashed near Taipei on Monday night. TV footage showed the bus careening towards a road barrier before flipping on its side.
The Taiwanese elderly passengers had been returning from a trip to a farm in the central region of Taichung when the bus veered off the motorway in the capital Taipei. Investigators were looking into excessive speed as the possible cause of the bus accident.
Local media said the top of the bus had been torn off and its occupants tossed onto the roadside.
Highway police spokesperson Ma Ling-wen said the speed limit on the ramp was 40 kph (25 mph) but it was not clear how fast the bus had been going. Ma said speed had not yet been ruled out as a cause of the crash.
Of 44 people on the bus, 30 were pronounced dead at the scene and two died in hospital. Both the bus driver and tour guide were among the dead. Many of the people were trapped under the wreckage. Victims were laid out at the scene covered in white and blue cloths.
Around 100 rescuers rushed to the spot. Rescuers were forced to use two cranes to pry the vehicle open. The remaining passengers were sent to hospitals for treatment, they are still being treated, most with serious injuries.
“The passengers are all Taiwanese and mostly older people, although the age range was early 20s to late 60s,” said Chen Chih-min from Taipei City fire department, which confirmed the crashed vehicle was a sightseeing tour bus.
The bus was reported to be 19 years old and belonged to Tieh Lien Hua Travel agency that runs tours across Taiwan.
In a statement, the Taiwan Affairs Office under China’s State Council said it was highly concerned about the accident, and it expressed its deepest condolences to families of the dead and sympathy to those injured.
A Cabinet statement said the island’s premier Lin Chuan “expresses his condolences to people killed in the accident and instructs the health ministry… to make all efforts to save the injured”.
China expressed condolence on Tuesday to the families of the dead and injured.
It comes after a bus inferno in July last year killed 25 Chinese holidaymakers on board, and is the latest in a series of deadly incidents that have tarnished Taiwan’s safety record.