Premier orders report on buses lost to Megi

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2010, 12:00am

Taiwanese Premier Wu Den-yih called yesterday for a comprehensive report within a month about who should be held responsible for two tragic bus accidents last week as Super Typhoon Megi struck the island.

The order came as Taiwanese authorities identified a torso as that of a Taiwanese tour bus driver who went missing along with a tour leader from Beijing after their bus was hit by a landslide on a mountain highway and plunged into a ravine.

Yesterday, rescuers found another torso on a rocky beach that could belong to any of the 21 people missing on another tour bus since landslides triggered by Megi buried a number of sections of the Suao-Hualien Highway in Taiwan's northeast.

The typhoon killed 13 people in Taiwan and left 25 missing. Of those missing, two were chicken farmers living near the highway, one was the bus driver, Tsai Ming-chih, who was confirmed dead yesterday, and one was a tour leader, Tian Yuan, from Beijing. The rest included a bus driver and a tour guide from Taiwan and 19 tourists from Guangdong on another tour bus missing since Thursday.

Lin Chih-hui, Ilan's chief prosecutor, told a news conference a woman's torso was found near Tsai's but she could not confirm it was that of Tian Yuan. 'We still need DNA comparison to verify it,' Lin said.

The torso found on a rocky beach was near a section of highway where the other bus, with 19 Guangdong tourists on board, disappeared, but search efforts were hampered by pouring rain and new landslides on the narrow highway.

Relatives of the tourists from Guangdong, who arrived in Taiwan on Monday night, demanded yesterday that authorities speed up rescue efforts and expand the search area. 'It is very possible that they were buried underneath the massive rocks and mud,' said one relative.

As the search team's head briefed the relatives on progress near the accident site, another said: 'We only hope you can find them quickly.'

Taiwanese media said the missing tourists from Guangdong could have been safe were it not for their failure to get train tickets to return to Taipei.

Reports said the tourists stopped at a shop and discussed whether it would be better to go back to Taipei by train instead of the highway.

Wu yesterday ordered relevant authorities to find out within a month why the buses were still allowed to travel on the highway at the height of torrential rain triggered by Megi.

'I also feel puzzled over why such a tragedy would still occur if everything was done by the book,' he said, in response to criticism from legislators and family members over the authorities' failure to close the road.

Meanwhile, 18 tourists from Beijing who were on the bus driven by Tsai returned home yesterday.