Tour bus catches on fire in Taiwan killing 26 on board

TAIPEI, Taiwan – A tour bus carrying visitors from China burst into flames on a highway near Taiwan’s capital on Tuesday, burning to death all 26 people on board, officials said, in the deadliest incident involving Chinese tourism to the island.

The accident took place on the No. 2 national highway in Taoyuan county, south of Taipei, where the island’s international airport is located, the county’s fire and rescue service said in a statement.

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It said 24 of those on board were visitors from northeast China’s Liaoning province who had been scheduled to fly home on Tuesday afternoon. The others killed were the driver and a tour guide, both Taiwanese.

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.

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

Many of the bodies were badly charred, some of them piled in front of the unopened emergency exit, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency and other media reported.

There was no official word on the cause of the fire, although CNA and others reported that the bus apparently burst into flames after spinning out of control and smashing into the highway’s guard rail.

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.

Photos from the scene showed flames and thick black smoke pouring from the front of the bus shortly after the crash.

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.

The accident was the deadliest involving Chinese visitors to Taiwan since the island opened up to Chinese tourism in 2008, according to Taiwanese government records and reports of previous incidents.

Since then, 83 Chinese have died while on trips to Taiwan, including Tuesday’s victims, and another 100 have been injured. Several of those deaths involved bus crashes, and the latest accident is likely to revive safety concerns surrounding the treatment of Chinese tourists, most of whom come on cheap group tours.

Tuesday’s was the deadliest incident involving Chinese tourists in Taiwan since 19 were killed in a tour bus crash in 2010.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it would send representatives to help deal with legal issues surrounding the crash. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and the sides have no formal ties, although contacts have been growing in recent years to handle trade, travel and other practical, nonpolitical matters.

However, relations have deteriorated since the January election of independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and Chinese visitor numbers have declined steadily in recent months, dealing a major blow to the island’s travel industry.

Signs of normal return to Nice’s Riviera after Bastille Day truck attack

NICE, France – Joggers, cyclists and sun-seekers are back on Nice’s famed Riviera coast, a further sign of normal life returning on the Promenade des Anglais where dozens were killed in last week’s Bastille Day truck attack.

Under a blazing sun, there were few visible reminders of the carnage on Tuesday, save for a handful of flags flying at half-staff and a number of armed soldiers patrolling the promenade.

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Some of Nice’s beachside restaurants were reopening for business, and the final section of the road was set to reopen to traffic following three days of official mourning.

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Late Monday evening, mourners formed a human chain to remove candles, flowers and other mementos honouring the victims of the attack, in which Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove through crowds watching fireworks. Rather than dismantling the tributes to the dead, volunteers moved them from the spots where victims fell along the killer’s trajectory to a gazebo in a seaside park.

Eighty-four people were killed in the attack. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that 59 people were still hospitalized, 29 of them in intensive care.

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Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees terrorism investigations, said a search of Bouhlel’s computer had found a clear and recent interest in “radical jihadism,” adding that the attack was obviously premeditated though there was no proof Bouhlel was directed by an extremist network.

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Internet searches on his computer included Islamic propaganda chants, the term “horrible deadly accidents,” and the recent attacks against a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, police officers in Dallas, and the killing of two police officials in Magnanville, outside of Paris.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls was loudly booed on Monday as he came and went from a memorial ceremony on the Nice shore, an expression of widespread criticism of security failures.

On Tuesday, French lawmakers are expected to debate whether the country’s state of emergency should be extended for another three months.

Meanwhile, relatives of three of the victims were preparing Tuesday to perform a ceremony for their dead at a mosque in the eastern Nice suburb of Ariane. Also Tuesday, Germany’s foreign minister said two students and a teacher from a Berlin school were killed in the attacks. Another student was injured and continues to receive treatment.

“This terrible attack shows that terror is directed against everyone without distinction,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

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