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Death toll from Hunan freeway accident rises to 17
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The death toll from Monday's bus-tanker collision on a freeway in central China's Hunan Province has risen to 17 as rescuers recovered two more bodies, according to the local government.

Another 25 injured, mostly bus passengers suffering from burns in the fire caused by the collision, were in stable condition, the Chenzhou City publicity office said on Tuesday.

Transport on the north-south lanes of the freeway resumed at around 10 a.m. this morning after a 15-hour suspension, the office added.

The accident happened at around 7 p.m. on the north-south freeway connecting Beijing and Zhuhai City in the southern Guangdong Province.

A bus heading north ran into the rear of a tanker carrying about 30 tons of benzene, a highly-flammable liquid often used to manufacture chemical products, an official with the city's fire control department surnamed Li said.

The collision led to the tanker breaking into two, triggering a fire and an explosion. The flaming liquid benzene flew around and ignited a nearby truck and another bus that was broken down about 20 meters away from the scene.

An emergency team featuring 55 firefighters and eight fire trucks spent more than three hours putting out the blaze.

The bus bumped into the tanker from Hunan. It is believed that most of the victims were migrant workers who were returning to work in southern coastal cities after spending the traditional Spring Festival with their families.

Hunan Vice Governor Liu Liwei led a group of public security, communications, work safety and environmental protection officials to the site to investigate the cause of the accident and handle the clean up, said a Hunan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) spokesman. While the cause of the accident was still under investigation, local traffic police suspected that driving on the freeway on Monday was affected by rain and foggy weather that day.

(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2008)

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