Ministry leaders comfort Chinese accident victims

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, along with deputy ministers and ministry officials, yesterday visited and encouraged Chinese tourists who were hospitalised after being injured in a bus accident on Monday.

The accident victims are receiving treatment at the Lao People’s Army 103 Central Hospital in Vientiane after the bus they were travelling in plummeted down a steep hillside in Luang Prabang province.

The minister, Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, and his delegation met the accident victims and told them the Lao government was deeply saddened about the incident.

He encouraged them to be strong and to be patient until they recovered.

The hospital’s Deputy Director, Colonel Dr Chanthaphone Oudomsouk, said 20 Chinese tourists were receiving treatment at the hospital.

The accident occurred at 15:30 pm in Nameuang village, Nan district. The driver of the bus lost control and the vehicle left the road and rolled about 100 metres down a steep hill at the Nam Ngao bridge.

The bus was carrying 46 people including a Lao driver and a Lao tour guide. Thirteen Chinese tourists including eight women were confirmed dead and 33 people were injured.

Some of the injured passengers were taken to hospitals in Luang Prabang while the most seriously injured were flown to Vientiane.

Head of the Traffic Police Department in Luang Prabang, Lieutenant Colonel Bounsavath Somphaxay, said it was possible the accident occurred because of a mechanical fault or because the driver was not familiar with the road. The accident happened on a steep and winding section of road and was the fourth to occur in this mountainous area in past years. In March this year, five Thai tourists were killed when their pick-up careered down a steep hillside in Nameuang village, just five metres from the scene of this latest accident, Lt Col Bounsavath said.

The road, which connects Kasy district in Vientiane province with Nan district, is a short cut in the journey between central and northern Laos. But it has several steep and sharply curved sections which require vehicles to be in good condition and an experienced driver to navigate the bends.

Police said the authorities had already issued a warning advising passenger vehicles and transport trucks to avoid this road due to the difficult conditions.