A passenger bus plunged off a bridge into a river in central Vietnam on late Thursday evening, killing 34 people and injuring dozens more, officials said on Friday. It is one of the country's deadliest road accidents in recent years.
The accident occurred at around 10 p.m. local time on Thursday when a bus operated by Quyet Thang Transport Cooperative overturned, went off a bridge and plunged into a river below. It happened on the Serepok Bridge which links the provinces of Dak Lak and Dak Nong in central Vietnam.
Photos from the scene showed the wreckage of the bus was on its top and half-way submerged in the river. The vehicle, which was carrying a total of 58 people, fell an estimated 18 meters (60 feet) when it broke through the side of the bridge, according to Vietnamese media reports.
A hospital official said rescue workers had recovered 34 bodies, including the bodies of bus drivers Pham Ngoc Lam, 44, and Le Cong Bang, 42. A total of 24 people were rescued from the waters of the Serepok River by local residents and then rushed to area hospitals, where many remained in a critical condition on Saturday.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known, but government officials said an initial investigation found no infrastructure problems on the bridge. Quyet Thang Transport Cooperative chief Nguyen Thanh Duc was quoted as saying by the Thanh Nien newspaper that local residents said Lam, the bus driver at the time, crashed into the bridge railing when trying to avoid two people riding on a motorbike.
However, Hoa Phu Commune police chief Nguyen Van Toan told the newspaper that a married couple riding behind the bus told officers that no one was in front of the vehicle and that the bus suddenly lost control before crashing into the railing. An investigation into the exact cause was continuing on Saturday.
Traffic accidents in Vietnam kill nearly 13,000 people a year and injure more than 10,000 others, according to police figures which show the casualty numbers have risen sharply since 2000. More than 30 percent of road traffic deaths in 2007 involved alcohol.