The freak accident comes as the Ministry of the Interior coordinates a campaign to control the carnage on the roads during the Songkran holiday which up to Monday saw 66,000 people facing prosecution for road traffic offences. Thailand is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for driving and certainly the most dangerous in Southeast Asia. A report earlier this month showed the kingdom is losing 3% of its GDP every year in road traffic accidents that involve those economically most active.
Five passengers on an overnight bus from the northeastern corner of Thailand in Bueng Kan province to Bangkok were burned to death in a freak blaze caused by a tyre of the double-decker bus catching flame just outside Khon Kaen. The victims included a young child, a 6-year-old girl, who never had a chance to escape the conflagration that erupted within the bus.
Early on Tuesday morning, a bus driver explained to the media that he frantically opened the doors of his expressway bus to Bangkok after it caught fire in a freak accident in the village of Nong Kham in Khon Kaen as it made its way from Bueng Kan province to Bangkok.
Five passengers died in the freak accident after a tyre caught fire which spread to the engine compartment of the bus and engulfed the vehicle in seconds.
Two of them were young children with three adults.
Police investigation into the bus fire as burned-out bus is taken to the local Ban Haet police station
The victims were burned to death in the conflagration which is now the subject of a police investigation after the burned-out bus was towed to Ban Haet Police Station after it took firefighters one hour to put out the flames.
16 people escaped from the vehicle unhurt while 12 more received burns, some of them seriously. The injured were taken to Khon Kaen and Sirindhorn hospitals for medical treatment.
‘I opened the bus doors to allow the passengers to escape, but it was too late because the flames spread quickly,’ said the driver of the bus who also sustained injuries.
Fire erupted after the second stop in Khon Kaen to pick up passengers in the early hours of the morning
The bus, operated by the 407 Pattana Company had left Bueng Kan province in the upper northeastern corner of Thailand on Monday evening.
It had stopped to pick up passengers in Udon Thani followed by another stop in Khon Kaen after midnight on Tuesday morning before driving on with thirty-three passengers aboard.
A local rescue team also attended the scene to assist the casualties from the bus and those who had escaped the fireball.
The double-decker bus tragedy comes as Thailand battles to keep the death toll during the Songkran festival low in the annual safety campaign run by the Ministry of the Interior.
Death rate in Thailand from road traffic accidents is 32.13% according to the latest WHO report
On Monday, it was announced that there had been 54 deaths with 373 people injured on the 3rd day of the holiday which is usually a time of increased carnage on Thailand’s roads which are among the most dangerous in the world according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and certainly the most dangerous in Southeast Asia.
The death rate from road traffic accidents in Thailand is particularly striking at 32.13%.
World Bank report warns Thailand of huge potential economic loss caused by road carnage (Click here to read)
Last year, the level of fatalities was lower than normal due to the Covid-19 lockdown and it is expected that this year, the numbers may also be contained at a lower level by depressed tourism and interprovincial traffic as the third wave of the virus spreads.
Figures released by the ministry do not include those that die later in hospital from their accident injuries
However, Monday’s figures, like all those released by the ministry, do not take into account deaths that occur afterwards in hospitals after road accident victims succumb to their injuries.
They are based on police reports from the scene of each accident.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the ministry gave some interesting insight into the patterns of accidents when he detailed that over 30% were caused by speeding while 28.35% related to drunk driving.
The figures for the first three days were 110 killed and 1,099 injured from 1,090 accidents.
66,000 drivers facing prosecution for offences after 3 days of checkpoint activity up to Monday last
60,000 checkpoints in three days led to 66,000 drivers being prosecuted for road traffic offences.
87.13% of those who died on Monday were motorcycle accident victims who nearly account for 80% of all accidents on Thailand’s roads.
Spokesperson Ansit Sampantarat also said 30% of accidents occurred from 4 pm to 8 pm.
The southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat had the highest density of accidents followed by Sakon Nakhon and Suphan Buri.
A force of nearly 60,000 police and security officers have already been involved in manning the checkpoints throughout the country resulting in the massive number of drivers facing road traffic charges including 18,210 for driving without a licence and 16,553 for riding a motorbike without a helmet.
World Health Organisation reports says it is costing Thailand ฿500 billion or 3% of its GDP per annum in purely economic terms aside from human suffering
A report just released from the World Health Organisation (WHO) analysing the traffic fatalities and injuries on Thai roads in 2019, the last normal year before the virus deflection of economic activity, showed that the country’s economy lost ฿500 billion directly to road traffic deaths and accidents.
That is 3% of GDP and excludes the emotional and personal suffering linked with the death of tens of thousands each year and the injury of hundreds of thousands.
The figures were highlighted by Mr Nopadol Santipakorn who is the Managing Director of Road Accident Victims Protection Co.
Fears that the death rate could rise again after the virus emergency eventually subsides
The road safety campaigner pointed to the projected fatality figures in the World Health Organisation report which predicted the death rate on Thai roads to fall from the 2019 figure of 22,000 deaths to anything between 15,399 and 18,606 between 2022 and 2027.
This was based on the fall-off in the death rate in 2020 which saw 17,831 fatalities.
Mr Nopadol suggested the figure may well rise towards 20,000 again when society and the Thai economy fully recover their momentum.
Thailand’s roads are driving its economy to ruin year by year as young active people are killed or maimed
On the economy, he made a telling point.
The people who are dying and being injured on Thailand’s roads are more than likely to be active young adults who are critical to the economy’s ability to grow and earn.
39% are heads of families who are income earners and responsible for on average 2.43 people.
The chronic problems of road traffic accidents on the roads is already an exacerbating factor making the country’s economic woes worse particularly with a country suffering an acute labour force shortage due to its ageing society.