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Death toll rises to 18 after bus falls off bridge in SW China

(Xinhua)

09:54, January 06, 2012

GUIYANG, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- An overloaded bus speeding on a highway amid heavy snow veered off a bridge in southwest China Wednesday, leaving at least 18 people dead and six others in critical condition, local officials said after conducting an initial probe.

The government of Guiding county raised the death toll to 18 on Thursday after two injured passengers died in a local hospital.

News photos show the wreckage of the bus lying bottom-up in a ravine near a section of Lanzhou-Haikou expressway in Guiding. Of the 40 people who were injured in the accident, six have been transferred to hospitals in nearby cities, as they are in critical condition.

Investigators blamed the crash on human error, saying that the driver was fatigued when he drove the bus across two lanes and broke through a bridge barrier before plunging into the 8.8-meter-deep ravine.

Investigators said heavy snow and rain also played a part in causing the accident.

The bus, registered to the Kaihong Passenger Travel Co., was heading to a county in southwest China's Sichuan province from the city of Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province.

The provincial weather bureau issued travel warnings on Thursday, as many roads were forced to close due to icy conditions. Icy rain is forecasted to fall in parts of Guizhou throughout the week.

The accident marked the second deadly bus accident to occur in China in just two days.

Thirteen people died and 41 others were injured on Tuesday when a heavy-duty truck collided with a coach on the Shanghai-Kunming expressway in central China's Hunan province.

The accidents occurred just before the annual Chinese New Year travel rush. About 2.85 billion people are expected to hit the road during the travel peak from Jan. 8 to Feb. 16.

The Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 23 this year.

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