China / Society

Explosion highlights bus safety concerns in China

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-07-17 10:24

GUANGZHOU - China's bus system is dogged with safety issues as lackluster efforts in the supervision and control of flammable and combustible materials ignite public concern.

The situation came to a head when a blast tore through a public bus in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province on Tuesday evening. The site of the explosion was Guangzhou Avenue, a pivotal road linking the northern and southern parts of the city. Two people died at the scene and 32 were taken to hospital.

Police detained a suspect surnamed Ou on Wednesday morning. The 25-year-old man has confessed and is currently in police custody, according to the municipal public security bureau.

There have been a number of cases of fires and explosions aboard commuter buses in recent years.

On July 5, a 34-year-old man was accused of setting a bus ablaze in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, injuring 30 people.

Last year, a bus in the east China coastal city of Xiamen burst into flames, leaving 47 people dead and 34 others injured.

In 2009, a bus in Chengdu caught fire and left 25 passengers dead. Police concluded the fire was deliberately set by an unemployed man who died in the blaze.

Wang Zechu, an official with Guangdong government, said that insufficient supervision of flammable and combustible material is the problem.

"Traffic control departments and bus companies should not shirk their responsibilities," Wang said.

In accordance with China's Fire Prevention Law, flammable and combustible items are banned from public transportation, but the regulation is difficult to implement, said a member of the local fire department who requested anonymity.

"Security and fire departments cannot possibly send staff to investigate public buses 24-7, and selective examinations just cannot guarantee 100 percent safety," said the staff.

Public buses are easy targets for criminals in that they are where people congregate, said Li Zonghao, executive vice president of China Association for Disaster & Emergency Rescue Medicine.

"Committing crimes in such places brings about a huge impact on society," Li said.

Authorities in Guangzhou have summoned heads of all the city's bus companies for emergency talks to improve security.

Wang Hongwei of Renmin University of China, wants students to be required to take lessons on public security on a regular basis, and grasp safety know-how through regular drills. He suggested setting up a TV channel or a program dedicated to public safety education.

"The government should publish details regarding past bus fires so that the public can draw lessons from them," he added.

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