15 Killed as Truck Carrying Buddhist Pilgrims Plunges off Cliff in Myanmar’s Shan State

By Zarni Mann 29 October 2019

MANDALAY – At least 15 people were killed and 10 were injured when their light truck plunged off a cliff in southern Shan State’s Ywangan Township on Monday night.

The vehicle was carrying 25 Buddhist pilgrims, including three monks and three children, from Taunggyi to Mandalay along the Myo Gyi-Ywa Ngan Highway when it drove off the road and plunged about 2,000 feet down the mountainside.

“We rushed to the area along with rescue workers. It took over 10 hours to rescue the injured passengers, who were scattered in the ravine in the dark,” explained U Aung Soe Min, a Lower House lawmaker representing Ywangan.

The truck drove off the cliff near Yone Taung Village at around 7:30 p.m. Villagers who witnessed the accident called rescuers for help.

Fifteen bodies, including those of a Buddhist monk, a 6-year-old girl and two boys aged 9 and 11, were sent to a mortuary at Ywangan General Hospital.

“The other 10 [passengers] were seriously injured and we are sending them to Mandalay General Hospital. A local government team is there to assist the injured,” U Aung Soe Min added.

According to local authorities, the passengers traveled from Kun Taung Gyi Village in Sagaing Region’s Shwe Bo Township to visit pagodas in Shan State’s Taunggyi, Kalaw and Pindaya regions.

“Buddhist monks, relatives [of the victims] and village leaders are on their way to retrieve the bodies. The police are investigating the incident,” said Ko Pho Chit, a rescue worker from the Thukha Ooyin volunteer group.

Most drivers traveling between Mandalay Region and Southern Shan State use the smoother Pyawbwe-Kalaw Highway, but some who are looking to save time take the bumpy, steep and winding Myo Gyi-Ywangan Highway through the mountains. The road connects Myo Gyi Township in Mandalay Division with Ywangan in southern Shan State.

Microbuses running between Meikhtila and Ywangan are among the vehicles that commonly use the Myo Gyi-Ywangan Highway.

Local residents said the route is notorious for accidents, but Monday’s incident was the deadliest they could recall.

“There have been many accidents, but most of the passengers have survived, with some injuries. In this case, the driver may not have been experienced on this road, and it was dark, so perhaps he couldn’t control the speed, or maybe the car was broken. The drivers who use this road usually drive in the daytime for safety,” said U Thein Naing, a local transportation service operator.

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