19 dead in fiery bus smash in Thailand

BANGKOK - Nineteen people died and 23 were injured Tuesday when a double-decker coach collided with a truck in central Thailand and burst into flames, authorities said.

Police in the central province of Saraburi said a four-year-old boy was among the dead.

The inter-province bus, which was travelling from Bangkok to Roi Et in the northeast of the country, caught fire after the incident.

Images from Thai television news showed the extent of the damage to the vehicle, which appeared to have been completely incinerated and reduced to its metal shell.

"Altogether there are 19 dead -- 18 died at the scene and another one died at the hospital," an official from the national institute for emergency medicine in Bangkok, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Authorities said three vehicles were involved in the crash.

Police have arrested the driver of the cement truck, who they said appeared to have lost control of his vehicle just before the incident.

"The truck crossed from the opposite lane of traffic and hit the bus," said local police officer Lieutenant Colonel Assavathep Janthanari, adding that a pickup truck behind the bus had also been involved.

He said the dead and injured were from the coach and the pickup truck.

It was not immediately clear how many people had been travelling in the coach.

Witthichart Kallayanamitr, director of the company under the ministry of transport which owns the bus, said its normal capacity would have been 32 people.

Safety standards are often poor in Thailand and transport accidents are relatively common.

Earlier this month an overnight sleeper train travelling from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai derailed and injured 23 people, including 18 foreign tourists.

In April at least five people were killed, including a seven-month-old baby and a Belgian woman, and 53 were injured when a Thai tour bus plummeted off a hillside in the northern province of Phitsanulok after its brakes failed.