Hong Kong : Eighteen women passengers were killed in Hong Kong Thursday and 44 people injured when an overloaded tour bus crashed and rolled over after apparently suffering brake failure.
The bus, carrying mostly elderly people to a May Day church service in the popular seaside town of Sai Kung, lost control and crashed on a roundabout at the end of a dual carriageway.
Police said the bus, which had been hired by a religious group, was overloaded and arrested the 32-year-old driver for dangerous driving.
He told officers his brakes failed as he came downhill toward the roundabout.
Road conditions were poor with persistent rain and low cloud at the time of the accident at 9 a.m. and the accident happened on a notorious blackspot where police carry out regular speed checks.
The bus smashed into a crash barrier, and its roof caved in as it rolled over, crushing and trapping passengers on board. It took firefighters three hours to cut the victims and survivors free.
Eighteen people, all women, were certified dead at the scene and about 40 others were injured, some seriously with broken bones and head injuries, a police spokesman said. Emergency hotlines were set up for relatives of passengers to call.
Some of the injured were taken by helicopter to hospital where they were later visited by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang, who was said to be “deeply shocked” by the accident.
The accident happened as the bus travelled from urban Kowloon to Hong Kong’s eastern New Territories, a seaside stretch that is heavily visited by tour groups on public holidays and weekends.
The death toll is the worst in any single road accident in Hong Kong since 2003 when 21 people died as a double-decker bus was shunted off the edge of a 30-metre highway bridge by a truck.