42 people are left dead and 33 are injured after a commuter bus ignited atop a raised
road designated for public transit vehicles in China Friday evening, according to state media.
The fire broke out in Xiamen – an affluent port city located in the southeastern region of
China’s Fujian province – around 6:30 pm (CST), according to officials from the Xinhua News
Images online show the burnt framework of what remains of the large express bus,
which reportedly was only 500 meters away from reaching the Jinshan station, a large
residential stop within the city.
Pictures which appeared on Chinese social media also showed plumes of dark smoke
billowing out of the bus as well as images of survivors who were badly burned and wearing
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – which initially started its bus service in 2008 and now covers a
route totaling over 80 kilometers (50 miles) throughout the city of Xiamen – halted all
operations after receiving news of the blaze, according to the Associated Press.
An investigation into what sparked the deadly accident is underway, according to the
Xinhua News Agency. However, as of yet, no official statement on the fire has been released
from the bus company.
Nevertheless, the accident brings to the foreground a debate that has been gaining
steam in China over the past few years.
Over the past ten years, China’s public transit system has been expanding quickly in
order to meet the growing demand for its services. Companies such as BRT, which operate
networks in many of China’s congested cities, use roads designated for public transport to
provide faster travel for their customers.
However, as these buses become more popular in urban centers, many have adopted
the idea that insufficient focus is being given to the security and welfare of public transit
customers as China continues to hastily develop an infrastructure that can meet the growing
Friday’s fire is the latest in a long line of public transportation accidents that have
inundated the country over the past few years.
Last August, at least 36 people perished in China’s Shaanxi province when a doubledecker sleeper bus – similar to the one involved in Friday’s accident – slammed into the back of
a methanol tanker and exploded, according to the Bangkok Post.
41 died in central China when an overcrowded double-decker bus carrying flammable
materials caught fire during the early morning rush hour in July of 2011.
According to the Associated Press, this bus had a max capacity of 35 passengers but was
carrying 47 at the time of the accident. Officials who investigated the incident had to use DNA
testing to identify the victims as their bodies were so badly burned.
Although statistically speaking accidents that occur in China’s public transit vehicles are
less common than those which involve privately operated vehicles, this recent string of
fatalities and evidence of overcrowding on the nation’s popular bus systems only contributes to
a growing concern.