14 Dead, 33 Injured in Bus Crash in West Burma

By Khin Oo Tha and Nyein Chan 23 January 2013

A passenger bus travelling from Rangoon to Arakan State swerved off the road and fell down a mountainside on Wednesday, killing people 14 and injuring 33 others, according to initial Burmese police reports

The accident occurred on Wednesday morning at 3 am, about 30 miles away from Taungup Township, when an overnight bus travelling through the Arakan Mountains in western Burma plunged 40 meters down a mountain slope, a post on the official Facebook page of the Myanmar Police Force said.

The report provided few details of the accident, other than mentioning that it had been caused by “a problem with the brakes” of the bus.

Medical staff at the Taungup Township Hospital told The Irrawaddy by telephone on Wednesday that 17 of 33 surviving crash victims were in a serious condition, adding that 12 had already transferred to the larger hospital in Thandwe City.

The other five severely injured victims were receiving treatment in Taungup Township Hospital, local staff said, adding that most victims suffered broken limbs and head trauma.

Min Aung, chairman of the National League for Democracy party in Taungup Township, said he was taking part in the rescue effort, adding that the mountainous conditions made it difficult for authorities and rescue workers to retrieve the victims from the crash site.

“The injured people were sent to the hospital with other buses,” he said. “As the bus fell a very long way down, we are still collecting the dead bodies.” “It takes about 30 minutes to bring a dead body up to the road,” Min Aung added.

Si Thu Lwin, a friend of a man called Win Zaw, who was being treated in Taungup Hospital, said that it remained unclear what had caused the bus to swerve off the road and into the valley below.

“My friend cannot speak well at the moment. He managed to tell me that the bus went down into the valley, but he did not know why,” Si Thu Lwin said.

There are dozens of passenger buses that make daily trips from Rangoon to Thandwe—usually at night—and accidents on the way are common. The death toll in Wednesday’s crash however, is believed to be one of the highest in recent years.

Road connections between Rangoon and Arakan State on Burma’s western coast pass through the Arakan Mountains, where poor roads are a constant hazard to passenger and goods transport.

Local businessman Kyauk Taun is understood to have won a bid for a government order to renovate the roads in the region several years ago. Currently, he is collecting road fees from cars and buses passing through, yet much of the roads remain in an extremely poor condition.