1 dead, 3 hurt after boulder hits tour bus

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A tour bus with more than 30 local people aboard was hit by a falling boulder while traveling across the Central Cross-Island Highway Monday afternoon, leaving one dead and three injured, according to the police. The accident occurred at the 170.1-kilometer mark on the west-east highway, just outside the Hsianglu Tunnel in Hualien County, at 1:40 p.m. on Monday. The rock ripped through the top of the bus, instantly killing a 47-year-old woman surnamed Wang. She was among a 35-member local tour group organized by the Butterflies Love Flowers Travel Agency (蝶戀花旅行社). Two men and one woman were injured. One of the men sustained serious injuries and was rushed to Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital for emergency treatment, while the others suffered only minor injuries and did not require further treatment, the police said.

Drinking was not a factor in the incident, police said, adding that the bus driver, surnamed Lin, had a blood alcohol content of zero. A travel agency official said the tour group of locals set off from the company’s head office on Chongching North Road in Taipei at 7 a.m. for a daytrip to Hualien. It had been scheduled to return to Taipei Monday night.

The travel cost was only NT$600 per passenger, including bus fare and insurance.

The accident took place while the bus was still on its way its destination of Tianxiang scenic area, the official said. Cause Unclear The cause of the falling boulder was not immediately clear.

Officials with a maintenance unit of the Suao-Hualien Highway said no notable earthquake or similar disaster had occurred near the accident site shortly before the boulder fell. The officials speculated the rocky base of the mountainous area had been softened as a result of lingering heavy rain caused by the peripheral airflow of Tropical Storm Nida. They called for tourist buses to avoid driving on the same section of highway.

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