TAK – Twenty migrant workers from Myanmar were killed when their bus caught fire in northwestern Thailand early Friday, the police said.
The workers were traveling to a factory district near Bangkok when their chartered bus was engulfed in flames around 1:30 a.m. in Tak Province.
The cause of the fire was not yet known, said Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen, a Royal Thai Police spokesman. The authorities were planning to interview the driver, who survived the fire.
The bus was carrying 47 people, and 27 escaped, Colonel Krissana said. But 20 others were killed in the fire, which incinerated the double-decker bus and left it a charred shell on the roadside.
“We are trying to identify the bodies and also trying to contact the Myanmar Consulate in order to identify the bodies,” Colonel Krissana said. “They are Buddhists, so we’ve got to send them back to their hometown for religious ceremonies there.”
Kittasak Boonchan, an administrator of a rescue group in Tak Province, said he arrived at the scene around 2:30 a.m., about 20 minutes after the first rescue team.
The burning bus was about 15 miles from the rescue team’s base, he said, delaying their response.
“When we got there, the flames were so strong,” Mr. Kittasak said. “People who couldn’t get out of the bus were writhing in pain in the flames.”
Most of the survivors had only minor injuries, but one person was badly burned and cut by a mirror, he said.
Most of the survivors had minor injuries but two were hospitalized, said Moe Aung Khine, who works in the office of the labor attache of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. He said his office was trying to inform the families of the victims and make funeral arrangements, as well as negotiate for compensation for the victims.
Thailand has the second-highest rate of traffic fatalities in the world after Libya, according to World Health Organization statistics. The WHO estimates a rate of 36.2 per 100,000 population. By comparison , the rate in the United Kingdom, with a comparable population, is 2.9 per 100,000, and in the United States it is 10.6 per 100,000.
Thailand’s traffic fatalities are highly skewed toward riders on motorized 2- or- 3 wheeled vehicles, who account for 73 percent of the total. Drivers and passengers of buses account for less than 1 percent.
However, a chartered tour bus on March 21 lost control on a downhill curve in Thailand’s northeast and slid off the road, killing 18 people and injuring 33. A day later, a bus on a school trip in the central province of Ayutthaya skidded in the rain and flipped over, injuring 39 people.
By Austin Ramzy, Kaweewit Kaewjinda
AFP and AP