13 people have been killed and a further 10 injured, after a passenger bus veered off a cliff and rolled more than 100 metres down a hill in China’s Hsinchu County.

The bus, which had 23 people on board at the time of the accident, was travelling to Qalang Smangus in Hsinchu County overnight when the accident occurred. According to initial reports from the Hsinchu County Fire Bureau, who were the first responders on the scene, the accident occurred at around 3am on Monday morning, on a deserted rural road.

Some of the surviving passengers were able to climb back up the 100 metre high cliff onto the main road where they stopped a car and called for emergency services. According to the Hsinchu County Fire Department, if it were not for these brave survivors, it may have been some time before the bus accident was discovered and the fatality rate may have been much higher.

The Fire Bureau dispatched 16 fire engines to the scene of the accident to rescue the injured passengers and recover the bodies of the victims. In addition, a local Atayal tribe hailing from Qalang Smangus, who lived near the accident site, also assisted in rescue efforts.

Reports from survivors claim that the bus’s engine suddenly stalled while the bus was travelling uphill on the Hsinchu Route 60 highway, causing the bus to slip back down the hill and off the road. Police authorities say that it appears that the bus veered to the side of the road and slowed down to allow another vehicle to pass when the engine stalled.

The passengers were largely alumni from the Tai Shan Elementary School in the province, who were attending a school reunion. All of the passengers were of a similar age, in their 50s and 60s, said a spokesperson for the Directorate General of Highways and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The bus was on its way from New Taipei City.

The driver of the bus was identified as Dai Tien-shian. He survived the accident but sustained serious head injuries. He is however conscious and will be questioned by the investigating police officers once he has recovered from his injuries, said officials.

According to the fire bureau, this accident is the most serious transport accident ever seen in Qalang Smangus. It is the most fatal bus accident in China since 2006, when a bus accident in Tainan left 22 people dead and 24 injured.

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