Rescuers drag the injured and corpses up along a mountain slope after a traffic accident in Congjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province on Saturday. Thirteen people were killed and 21 were injured in the accident. An initial investigation showed that the coach designed for 19 passengers was carrying 34 when the accident occurred. A further investigation into the cause of the accident is underway. Photo: IC
A number of road accidents, including the highway blast that led to a bridge collapse in Central China's Henan Province, have claimed dozens of lives over the past three days, prompting the public to demand that authorities reinforce safety checks to make sure people can travel home safely during the annual Spring Festival travel rush.
At least six major road accidents took place across the country since Friday, killing at least 67 people.
In the most serious accident, a part of the expressway viaduct in Mianchi county, Sanmenxia city, Henan Province collapsed on Friday morning when a truck carrying fireworks exploded, killing 10 people and injuring 11.
Search and rescue work at the accident site of the viaduct drew to an end Saturday evening. Ren Zhanzhou, a media spokesperson with the Sanmenxia government said online rumors claiming 26 people had died were groundless.
Initial investigations showed the hazardous weather led to the explosion, said officials without giving details. Traffic control measures were imposed and commuters diverted to other highways. An on-site firefighter told the Global Times it could take two months to rebuild the bridge.
The truck, registered in Hebei Province, was transporting fireworks illegally, said an official statement. The producer of the fireworks is a company based in Pucheng, Shaanxi Province and was found to be involved in illegal production. Four people have been arrested, the statement said.
The truck was laden with fireworks, including one type that is already banned from production due to its powerful effects. The power of the blast was equivalent to one ton of explosives, said Wang Baixing, a bomb-disposal expert who joined the on-site investigation.
In the other accidents, at least three involved overloaded vehicles and were all related to illegal acts including speeding, driving while exhausted and drunk driving.
It is expected that 310 million passengers will rely on long-distance buses to travel, taking up 90 percent of the total transportation volume of the spring rush.
However, speeding, overloading and bad driving habits, in addition to treacherous road conditions, especially in some mountainous regions, often result in frequent traffic accidents around this time of the year.
A rash of accidents prompted calls for close cooperation between the Ministry of Transport and public security departments to strengthen supervision of vehicles, Wang Limei, general secretary of the China Road Transport Association, told the Global Times, adding that harsh penalties should be imposed for overloading, speeding and bad driving habits.
In response to the frequent deadly accidents, the Ministry of Public Security on Sunday ordered the tightening of road inspections for speeding and drunk driving.
The ministry urged local authorities to prevent similar deadly accidents and ensure road safety for those returning home by reinforcing traffic management and checks, and rewarding passengers for reporting illegal acts.
According to the Ministry of Transport, some parts of the highways in Shanxi and Hebei provinces in northern China and Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces in northeastern China were closed off due to the snow and fog as of press time.
Xinhua contributed to this story