|Photo taken on July 19, 2014 shows burnt vehicles after an explosion and fire on a section of the Hukun (Shanghai to Kunming) Expressway in central China's Hunan Province. At least 43 people are confirmed dead in the explosion and fire after a vehicle crash on the highway early Saturday morning. The accident happened at around 3 a.m. Saturday, when a van loaded with flammable liquid, probably alcohol, rear-ended a passenger coach. (Xinhua/Long Hongtao)
CHANGSHA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- At least 43 people were killed and another six injured in an explosion and fire after a highway pileup in central China Saturday morning.
A van loaded with alcohol rear-ended a passenger coach at around 3 a.m. on a section of the Hukun (Shanghai to Kunming) Expressway in Hunan Province.
A total of five vehicles were destroyed in the accident.
Shi Shiping, a villager living near the scene, told Xinhua that he "heard a huge bang" when the accident happened.
"It was like the explosion of an atomic bomb," Shi said, adding that local villagers were unable to get close to the site because of the fierce fire.
"Four people escaped from the blaze with severe burns, their hair and clothes burnt," Shi said. "They could barely talk and were just moaning. As we did not have medicine or any medical equipment, we just comforted them by saying everything will be OK," Shi said.
A joint task force led by the State Administration of Work Safety, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Transport has arrived at the site.
The investigation team concluded in their preliminary findings that the van had been remodeled and the coach driver had not followed mandated stop-over policy that requires passenger coaches to rest after midnight.