China to send officials to Taiwan to tackle aftermath of bus accident
Taipei, July 19 (CNA) China said Tuesday that it will send a team to deal with the aftermath of a bus fire that killed 26 people, including 23 Chinese tourists and their Chinese guide, earlier in the day.
"We're highly concerned about the lives and safety of our countrymen from the mainland," said Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council.
"Related authorities will send a team to Taiwan to help the families of the victims deal with the aftermath of the incident," he said.
He said his office activated an emergency mechanism upon being informed about the accident.
The Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation, the semi-official organization responsible for cross-Taiwan Strait negotiations, said it had reported the case to its Chinese counterpart -- the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).
The ARATS has demanded that the Taiwanese authorities get to the bottom of the incident and deal with the issue properly, as well as take measures to strengthen travel safety, according to Ma.
Ma's remarks came after all 26 people on a bus taking a Chinese tour group to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport died earlier in the day when a fire broke out in the vehicle on the No. 2 National Freeway.
In Taipei, the Tourism Bureau said the tour group was from China's Liaoning Province and consisted of 23 tourists and a Chinese guide.
The worst single accident involving Chinese tourists in Taiwan occurred at about 1 p.m. at the 2.8-kilometer mark of the freeway on its westbound lane headed toward Taiwan's main gateway.
The group had arrived in Taiwan July 12 for an eight-day tour and was heading to the airport on its final day in Taiwan to catch a 4:30 p.m. flight back to Dalian, the bureau said.
Taiwan's National Immigration Agency said it will facilitate the entry procedure for the families of the Chinese victims by issuing them with travel permits upon their arrival in Taiwan.
Two Taiwanese aboard the ill-fated bus -- the bus driver and a tour guide -- also lost their lives in the tragedy.
Freeway surveillance cameras show that the bus was belching smoke and that fire began erupting from the front part of the vehicle before it rammed a guardrail on the outer edge of the freeway.
It was unclear at what point the fire broke out, what caused it, or why the driver did not pull the bus over while it was belching smoke.
An investigation is underway to identify the cause of the accident.
The 6-year-old bus had a record of five traffic violations during its time in service.
The driver, Su Ming-cheng (蘇明成), only obtained his license to drive big passenger buses last October and already had two traffic violations to his name.
(By Yin Chun-chieh, Chen Chia-lun, Wu Tze-hao, Wang Chao-yu, Chu Che-wei and Elaine Hou) ENDITEM/J
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