Taipei: Distraught relatives of 24 Chinese tourists who died after a fire ripped through their bus in Taiwan broke down in tears Thursday as they arrived on the island to identify their loved ones.
The mainland tour group was travelling just a few kilometres away from Taipei's Taoyuan airport to catch a flight home Tuesday when their bus was engulfed in flames and careered through an expressway barrier, killing all 26 on board, including a Taiwanese driver and guide.
Investigators are probing the cause of the accident and say the fire started at the front of the bus, near the driver's seat. Questions are still swirling over why none of the passengers were able to escape through emergency exits.
One female relative in her 50s collapsed in tears and pounded a table in front of gold-framed portraits of the dead including three children at a funeral parlour near the airport, where the bodies are being kept. Two other women sank to their knees in front of the images of the victims.
They were among dozens of relatives who arrived at the parlour as Buddhist volunteers chanted outside. The family members bowed three times in front of the portraits and laid white flowers in front of them. They then returned to their hotel where they will meet Taiwanese officials Thursday evening.
Chinese officials have demanded Taiwan take measures to ensure the safety of mainland visitors to the island, after a number of fatal accidents involving tourists from China in recent years.
Liu Kezhi, secretary-general of China's Association for Tourism Exchange across the Taiwan Straits, expressed "strong dissatisfaction" over the accident.
"I hope Taiwan will take real measures and put high importance on the safety of mainland tourists, so that similar issues will not happen again," Liu told reporters after paying his respects to the dead. Taiwan's Premier Lin Chuan also paid his respects at the parlour Thursday.
Relatives were due to have DNA samples taken to help with identification on their arrival at the airport, according to the Travel Agent Association, which is coordinating their stay.
They will only be able to see the bodies of their family members after the DNA results have been processed, which will take a day, the association said.
The group from China's northeastern Dalian City was on an eight-day trip around the island, taking in popular spots including Alishan nature reserve and Taroko Gorge.
A highway police officer and a truck driver tried to save the trapped tourists, with pictures showing them attempting to smash windows with fire extinguishers.
One eye witness said passengers inside the bus had been pounding on windows as the bus swerved off the highway. A postmortem carried out on the driver's badly burnt body revealed he had inhaled a large amount of smoke, prosecutors said....