BEIJING Nov 16 Eighteen nursery school
children were killed when a coal truck slammed into their
"drastically" overcrowded school van in northwest China on
Thursday, local media reported, prompting an outcry about the
country's deadly roads.
The collision on a rural road in Zhengning County, Gansu
province, also killed the driver of the van and a teacher
onboard, the Xinhua news agency said.
Another 44 people were hurt -- 10 of them seriously -- in
the accident, one of the worst on China's roads for some time.
An initial investigation showed the van was "drastically
overloaded", carrying 64 people instead of the nine passengers
permitted, said Chinese state radio news.
Pictures on Chinese news websites showed the crumpled
wreckage of the yellow van that was struck by the much larger
coal truck on the way to the nursery.
Investigators were examining the cause, said news reports
which left unclear whether the truck or van driver might be to
Officials hurried to the scene to offer support and promised
a crackdown on road hazards. But a flood of messages on Chinese
web sites echoed with outrage about lax safety enforcement.
"The nursery school can't shirk responsibility for such
serious overcrowding," said one comment on Sina's "Weibo"
Another said: "Why don't we protect children in the same way
we protect our leaders?"
Chinese authorities have tried to crack down on dangerous
driving but breakneck economic growth, and rapid expansion in
the number of roads and drivers, creates many menaces,
especially on poorly policed rural roads.
In 2010, Chinese police officially recorded 219,521 traffic
accidents that led to deaths or injuries, including 65,225
fatalities, a fall of 3.7 percent on the previous year.
In a study published by the World Health Organisation in
2010, however, experts found that such official data seriously
undercounted the number of road deaths in China, which they
estimated to be almost twice the number reported by police.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Paul Tait)