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45 killed, 557 injured on 1st day of Thai new year holidays
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A total of 45 persons were killed and 557 others were injured in 477 road accidents on Friday, the first of "seven dangerous days" in the annual water festival, as people streamed out of the capital city for their home provinces to celebrate the Songkran festival, Thailand's traditional New Year, the official Thai News Agency reported on Saturday.

Pongpayom Vasaphuti, permanent secretary for Interior Ministry, said in his capacity as a committee member of the government- established Road Safety Center that Friday's accidents exceeded the same period of last year, when 435 highway accidents were reported, with 41 persons killed and 514 others injured.

The great number of Friday's casualties were reported in the upper Gulf of Thailand province of Prachuap Khiri Khan where five persons died, said Pongpayom.

The new year starts from Sunday to Tuesday while the "seven dangerous days" started since Friday and will end next Thursday.

Driving while intoxicated, followed by speeding and reckless driving, were listed by police as the main causes for Friday's accidents, which mainly involved motorcycles, he said.

Police have set up 3,009 checkpoints throughout the country in an attempt to reduce road accidents during the festival, said the News Agency.

(Xinhua News Agency April 13, 2008)

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