Taipei, May 7 (CNA) A collision between two buses in the 12.9-kilometer Hsuehshan Tunnel in northeastern Taiwan on Monday caused two deaths and injured more than 20 others, two of whom seriously.
The accident occurred at 1:27 p.m. when a passenger bus caught fire after being hit from behind by another bus at the 26 kilometer mark on the south-bound No. 5 National Highway in the Hsuehshan Tunnel, which links New Taipei and Yilan counties, police said.
The Directorate General of Highways confirmed that the collision happened right after a car's tire suddenly blew out, which forced the first bus, run by Kamalan Bus Inc., to clap on the brakes, catching the bus driver behind by surprise.
The second bus, owned by Capital Bus, caught fire after the collision, according to the agency, which said the driver died in the fire.
Firefighters said they launched rescue efforts immediately upon hearing of the accident and extinguished the flames at 2:08 p.m., adding all the injured, mostly suffering from smoke inhalation, had been rushed to nearby hospitals.
The tunnel has been closed to traffic to facilitate rescue work, police said.
The accident is the most serious to have happened in the tunnel, which was opened to the public in June 2006.
Considered a marvel of civil engineering and human perseverance, the tunnel took 15 years to complete.
(By Sunrise Huang and Elizabeth Hsu)