China is reeling over its latest school bus accident incident, in which eleven preschool children died after their minivan plunged off the road into a pond in Southern China on Monday, said authorities.
According to police officials speaking to the Xinhua news agency in China, the van was carrying 15 children and the driver at the time of the accident. The driver has been arrested and is being detained by police pending an investigation into the accident.
The children, who were all between four and six years old, died after the bus driver appeared to lose control of their bus, veering off the road and plunging into a roadside pond in the province of Jiangxi in the southern region of China. According to authorities, four children survived the accident and sustained minor injuries. The surviving children are currently being treated in local hospitals.
It is not yet clear what caused the accident, however authorities have said that an official investigation will be conducted in the coming weeks. The Chinese State Broadcaster, China Central Television, has stated in a news report that the minivan was speeding and lost control when it was forced to swerve suddenly to avoid striking a stationary vehicle. These reports, however, have not been confirmed by authorities.
A human rights group based in Hong Kong has issued a statement claiming that the minivan was overloaded. According to the group, the van was only certified to carry seven people and was transporting 15 children and two adults at the time of the accident.
In November last year, a similar bus accident killed 18 preschool children while they were being transported to their nursery school in a rural area of China. This accident led to a stream of protests and protests by concerned parents and school authorities, forcing premier Wen Jiabao to put more of the country’s budget into ensuring the safety and upkeep of school buses across the country.
However, despite the added funds, there has been a disturbing trend of similar accidents involving school buses in China, particularly in rural areas. Rural roads in China are notorious for their poor upkeep, and buses and trucks in the region are often badly maintained and even unroadworthy.
One factor that may contribute to the increased rate of fatal school bus accidents is that schools are closing in rural areas and moving to bigger towns and cities, meaning that rural Chinese children have to travel long distances each day to get to school.