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24 mainland tourists killed in Taiwan coach fire

Twenty-six people have died after a fire on a tour bus on a highway near Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan on Tuesday (19th July), Xinhua News Agency.

Twenty-four of the victims were tourists from the Chinese mainland, and the other two were the driver and the tour guide from Taiwan, according to Taiwanese authorities.

There were no survivors from the bus, which had crashed into an outer lane barrier before the fire broke out. An investigation is underway.

Sixteen of the tourists were women and eight were male. Three were children.

Arrangements would be made as soon as possible for the relatives of the victims to go to Taiwan, said Man Hongwei, director of the Taipei office of the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits.

The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has launched emergency response measures, said office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang.

"We are highly concerned about the safety of our mainland compatriots," Ma said, adding that a work team will be dispatched to Taiwan to help handle the aftermath of the incident.

The tour was organized by Liaoning Overseas Travel Service Company. The Liaoning Provincial tourism bureau said it has set up a team to investigate the incident and is trying to verify the names of all the people who registered with the company for the tour.

The tourist firm is licensed to organize tours in Taiwan, said an official with the provincial tourism bureau.

The Tourism Bureau of Dalian City in Liaoning Province confirmed that 21 of the victims from the mainland were from Dalian, while the other three came from Heilongjiang, Jilin and Hunan provinces.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of Liaoning Province has contacted its counterpart in Taiwan over the tragedy and required its branch in Dalian to connect with the family members of the victims and prepare to send personnel to Taiwan to deal with the aftermath.