Thailand bus inferno kills 29 people


BANGKOK, AFP

A double-decker bus burst into flames and careered down a central Thailand hillside Tuesday, killing at least 29 people, as desperate passengers scrambled through windows to escape, police said.

Another 37 people were injured when the bus caught fire on a major highway as it headed toward Bangkok. “There were 29 people killed and 37 wounded. I don’t know how serious their injuries are,” Lieutenant Colonel Chanathis Wongwairak, head of the provincial highway patrol, told AFP by telephone.

“Police spent 10 minutes extinguishing the fire, but the victims had already died inside the wreckage.” He said the cause of the fire was still under investigation but that it may have started in the undercarriage. The driver of a nearby bus said he thought an axle might have broken and pierced the fuel tank, Chanathis added.

Wuthichart Kalayanamitra, head of Transport Company which operated the bus, said one survivor also reported the fire came from underneath the bus. “The injured passenger said the bus caught fire from underneath, and it could not stop because the brake system failed as the bus went downhill,” he said.

Survivors managed to escape by leaping from windows as the bus raced down the hill, he added.

The bus was travelling from the northeastern province of Yasothorn toward Bangkok when it caught fire in the central province of Saraburi, around 105 kilometers north of here, police said.