Five dead, 32 injured in Hong Kong coach crash

Police walk past a crushed taxi after a coach (back) collided with it in Hong Kong on November 30, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 November 2018

Five dead, 32 injured in Hong Kong coach crash

  • A coach carrying Cathay Pacific staff to Hong Kong’s airport collided with a taxi
  • The taxi driver, two men and two women coach passengers were killed

HONG KONG: Five people were killed and 32 injured when a coach carrying Cathay Pacific staff to Hong Kong’s airport collided with a taxi on Friday, police said, with passengers thrown from the coach’s windows on impact.
The back half of the taxi was completely crushed and both sides of the bus were damaged with traces of blood on the outside following the crash on the island of Tsing Yi.
Police said the collision had happened in the left lane of the main road — the taxi had stopped with its hazard lights on and the coach plowed into it.
“We believe the taxi was broken down and stopped in the left lane of the road. Around 40 seconds later, a coach hit it from behind,” police superintendent Yip Siu-ming said.
The coach then lost control, Yip added, hitting the right hand side crash barrier and then the left one and throwing three passengers out of the coach. The 62-year-old driver was also hurled from the vehicle and injured.
The taxi driver, two men and two women coach passengers were killed, according to police.
Hong Kong’s hospital authority said one person remained in critical condition and another in serious condition.
The rest of the injured were either stable or had been released from hospital.
Debris including glass and personal belongings was strewn across the main road, which remained closed early Friday.
Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific confirmed “a shuttle bus carrying our employees was involved in a traffic accident this morning.”
“It is a tragic and very sad incident. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who have sadly passed away,” the airline said.

Superintendent Yip said police would look into whether the coach driver — who had been working for 10 hours at the time of the accident — had been tired or affected by alcohol.
“From what we can see, it’s obvious that the driver did not see the broken-down taxi on the road and hit it from behind,” Yip said, adding that his working hours were from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 am.
The Kwoon Chung bus company told local media that the driver had been working for them for 12 years and had not declared any health problems.
Matthew Wong, chairman of the company, said the driver had had enough rest and had taken eight days off in November. He added: “Of course we’ll look into the cause of the accident,” in a telephone interview with TVB.
Tsing Yi is connected by a freeway to Hong Kong International Airport which is located on neighboring Lantau island.
Television footage showed the injured being treated by the side of the road before they were taken to four hospitals.
One coach passenger said the bus had been traveling fast before it crashed into the taxi, according to SCMP.
“It seemed to me that the coach did not slow down. I fell onto the floor (when it crashed),” the passenger said.
A passenger told local television channel TVB the scene on the bus was “very chaotic, we were crushed together.”
Another said “the bus hit once, then hit left and right, and hit the roadside to stop.”
Television footage showed the crash barrier on either side of the road was damaged.
The accident happened at 5:00 am (2100 GMT Thursday) near the exit of a tunnel.
Hong Kong prides itself on having one of the world’s best public transport systems but deadly bus accidents are not unknown.
A speeding double-decker overturned in northern Hong Kong in February, killing 19 people and leaving more than 60 injured. The bus driver was arrested for dangerous driving.
And in 2003 a double-decker bus collided with a truck and plummeted off a bridge, killing 21 people and injuring 20.

Filipino rebel chiefs become officials under peace deal

President Rodrigo Duterte, political leaders and officials flash the peace sign following Friday’s oath-taking ceremony in Manila. (AP)
Updated 21 min 22 sec ago

Filipino rebel chiefs become officials under peace deal

  • It is a very difficult and challenging process, says MILF spokesman

MANILA: Some of the fiercest Muslim rebel commanders in the southern Philippines were sworn in Friday as administrators of a new Muslim autonomous region in a delicate milestone to settle one of Asia’s longest-raging rebellions.

President Rodrigo Duterte led a ceremony to name Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim and some of his top commanders as among 80 administrators of a transition government for the five-province region called Bangsamoro.

About 12,000 combatants with thousands of firearms are to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal.  Thousands of other guerrillas would disarm if agreements under the deal would be followed, including providing the insurgents with livelihood to help them return to normal life.

“We would like to see an end of the violence,” Duterte said. 

“After all, we go to war and shoot each other counting our victories not by the progress or development of the place but by the dead bodies that were strewn around during the violent years.”

About 150,000 people have died in the conflict over several decades and stunted development in the resource-rich region. 

Duterte promised adequate resources, a daunting problem in the past.

The Philippine and Western governments and the guerrillas see an effective Muslim autonomy as an antidote to nearly half a century of secessionist violence, which Daesh could exploit to gain a foothold.

“The dream that we have fought for is now happening and there’s no more reason for us to carry our guns and continue the war,” rebel forces spokesman Von Al-Haq said in an interview ahead of the ceremony.

Several commanders long wanted for deadly attacks were given safety passes to be able to travel to Manila and join the ceremony, including Abdullah Macapaar, who uses the nom de guerre Commander Bravo, Al-Haq said. 

Known for his fiery rhetoric while wearing his camouflage uniform and brandishing his assault rifle and grenades, Macapaar will be one of the 41 regional administrators from the rebel front.

Duterte will pick his representatives to fill the rest of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which will also act as a regional Parliament with Murad as the chief minister until regular officials are elected in 2022.

Members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a 1996 autonomy deal that has largely been seen as a failure, will also be given seats in the autonomous government.

Disgruntled fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front broke off and formed new armed groups, including the notorious Abu Sayyaf, which turned to terrorism and banditry after losing its commanders early in battle. 

The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted by the US as a terrorist organization and has been suspected of staging a suspected Jan. 27 suicide bombing that killed 23 mostly churchgoers in a Roman Catholic cathedral on southern Jolo island.

“We have already seen the pitfalls,” Al-Haq said, acknowledging that the violence would not stop overnight because of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups, some linked to Daesh. 

“It’s a very difficult and challenging process.”