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(LEAD) China calls fatal bus fire inside tunnel act of arson

All News 13:43 June 02, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more info, photo)

BEIJING, June 2 (Yonhap) -- The Chinese government on Friday called a bus fire last month that killed 10 South Korean children in China an act of arson, the South Korean Embassy in Beijing said.

The Chinese foreign ministry notified the South Korean Embassy of the outcome of an investigation into the cause of the accident on May 9, when a school bus carrying 11 kindergarten students and a teacher caught fire inside the Taojiakuang Tunnel in Weihai, a city in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong.

According to the investigation, the driver set the bus on fire while in a feeble-minded state after he rear-ended a preceding vehicle. It was not immediately known how he set the bus ablaze.

Along with the 10 South Korean children and one Chinese child, the bus driver and their teacher also perished. The students attended a kindergarten affiliated with an international school that largely caters to Koreans.

Chinese media have reported that the pupils were five South Koreans and six Chinese based on an announcement by the Weihai municipal government. But the South Korean Embassy said it is believed 10 were South Korean, including those with dual citizenship.

In Friday's notification, the Chinese ministry and Shandong provincial government also expressed their willingness to make the utmost efforts to compensate the bereaved families of the victims.

A joint team of Chinese police and forensic investigation organs conducted the probe in Tianjin, Yantai and Qingdao. In order to find out what caused the accident to happen, the team also utilized scientific methods by reenacting various situations involving vehicles, roads, drivers and weather.

It took almost one month to discover the cause of the accident as the Chinese leadership, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, showed concern.

This provided photo shows a bus that was gutted by a fire inside the Taojiakuang Tunnel in Weihai, Shandong Province, China, on May 9, 2017. Twenty people, including 10 South Korean children and the bus driver, were killed after the bus carrying 11 pupils from a South Korean international preschool and their Chinese teacher caught fire inside the tunnel, the South Korean Embassy in Beijing said. (Yonhap)


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