26 dead in Malaysian bus crash

Kuala Lumpar–Twenty-six people, mostly Thai tourists, were killed Monday when their double-decker bus crashed along a highway after a trip to the Cameron Highlands, in Malaysia's worst-ever coach accident.

"We can confirm that 26 people died in the bus accident. Twenty-three of them were Thai nationals who were tourists while three were Malaysians, namely the driver, co-driver and the tour guide," said Zakaria Yusof, acting state police chief. "Eleven other Thai nationals survived the accident and are being treated in nearby hospitals," the Perak state police official told AFP.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said the bus hit a road divider and overturned as it travelled away from the Cameron Highlands, one of Malaysia's top tourist destinations. "Police are still carrying out investigations as to what caused the accident and it is premature for me to say anything about it at this time," Zakaria said.

Some of the approaches to the highlands are narrow, windy and treacherous, but Monday's accident occurred when the bus had reached level ground and was on a highway. Bus crashes are relatively common in Malaysia, often involving interstate buses, and accompanied by revelations that drivers were unlicensed, speeding or under the influence of drugs to keep themselves awake.

Last week, four prison officers were killed when a bus lost control and plunged into a ravine after travelling from a sports tournament. In October a collision involving two buses, a van and three cars claimed 13 lives on the nation's main North-South highway. Later that month another seven people were killed when their bus overturned en route to Kuala Lumpur. A year ago, 10 people were killed when a double-decker bus struck a road divider in northern Ipoh state. In 2007, a bus crash claimed 22 lives in what the transport minister said at the time was the worst accident of its kind in Malaysia's history.

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