A 55-person tour bus that was filled nearly to capacity has crashed in Tibet, striking two other vehicles as it took a nosedive off of a cliff, landing on its roof in the valley below. Xinhua (China’s main news agency) has reported a death toll of 44, with 11 others injured in the accident. All injured parties are said to be in a hospital in Lhasa at this time, with no critical injuries sustained.
The accident occurred late in the afternoon of August 9, 2014 in a rural area in Nyemo County. Nyemo County is located some 100 kilometers west of the nation’s capital of Lhasa, within the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The TAR is a portion of the country which is under the rule of the Chinese government.
The upper management of the tour bus company and travel agency responsible for the bus in question’s maintenance and operation have been taken into custody by Chinese police for questioning. It has also been reported that an emergency governmental meeting was held immediately after the crash, in order to address the issue of transportation safety in the region and answer the question of how to keep fatal crashes such as this one from happening again in the future.
Most of the bus passengers were tourists hailing from eastern China. In recent years, China has sought to boost its economy by encouraging tourism, both within the country itself and in areas under its jurisdiction such as the TAR. It is hoped that tourism within Tibet would help the country to grow economically, thus putting an end to local opposition to the Chinese government that is currently in place in the region.
Although China’s ministry of transport reports a distinctive drop in fatal auto accidents between 2003 and 2012—with numbers of fatalities nearly cut in half—there are conflicting reports from independent researchers showing that such road accidents are as big a problem as ever within China, and may have even increased over the past 10 years.
Auto accidents, and bus accidents in particular, are a growing problem within China and surrounding areas. Tour buses such as this one are often crowded beyond capacity, and long-distance drives can take their toll on bus operators, leading to fatigue and exhaustion which can yield deadly consequences when traveling on the winding, rural roadways that typify much of China’s topography.