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South Korea: Lax Safety Control Lead to Bus Explosion

South Koreans were enjoying summer retreats when they watched this horrific security camera footage of a bus explosion in the heart of Seoul; An ordinary bus that can be found in every corner of the city exploded with a loud bang and panicked passengers desperately jumped out of the bus and ran through the black smoke. 17 people were severely injured from this incident caused by the overheated gas tank due to recent scorching summer weather. People were shocked to see the bus they ride everyday blown up in a second. The fear is growing as the city is planning to replace almost the entire bus to the CNG(Compressed natural gas)model which exploded this week.

A blogger Natzrin saw the scene of the accident right after the explosion and witnessed the wreckage of the bus which his family used to ride. The blogger added that this horrible image will haunt him quite a while. The images on the left are screen capture images from the video footage uploaded in Qnahsladml’s blog. 

퇴근해서 집에 도착하자마자 바깥에서 엄청난 폭발음이 들렸다…나중에 체육관에 가려고 집 밖으로 나가보니 버스가 폭발했더라…동생이 등교할 때 타고 다니던 버스가 폭발한 거라서 섬뜩했다. 가까이 가보니 버스의 창이란 창은 다 깨져서 도로 주변 상가까지 그 파편이 여기저기에 널려있었다. 그리고 버스 아래 부분이 폭발했는지 버스는 밑이 폭발해서 주저 앉은 채로 있었다…또 다시 잠재적 공포 중의 하나가 수면 위로 떠올라 당분간 머릿속을 어지럽힐 것 같다.

A loud explosion was heard as soon as I came back my house from work… After I went out to go to gym, I discovered that a bus had exploded…It was horrifying to watch an exploded bus which my brother/sister uses to ride to school. When I approached closer to the scene, the bus’s every windows were shattered and the shrapnel was scattered all over the place in the road and to the adjacent stores. The bus’s bottom must had been exploded since the bus sank down quite a bit…Once again, one of my underlying fear will resurface again and roil my mind for a while.

Many people in the internet have suspected of terror attacks the moment this bad news broke out as an one-liner news. Fortunately it was not and if it were, that would have been worst case scenario for Korea government. South Korean government will be hosting G-20 summit soon this year and it has been urging its people via social campaigns to act nice and gentle to foreign visitors during the summit season in order to leave good impression of Korea to foreign guests. A blogger Arirang approached the incident from this perspective.

이제 곧 G20 정상 회담이 개최된다. 이 일(버스 폭발)이 그때 일어났다면 테러로 오해했을 많은 가능성이 있으며 외국인들은 나중에 진실을 알지만 불안해 떨었을 것이다.

The G-20 Summit meeting will soon be starting. If this explosion had occurred during the meeting, many would have mistaken it as a terror attack and the foreign visitors would have shivered in fear before they get to hear the true story.

The shock people got from the video footage of the incident is intensifying every day as the news revealed that this very model, the clean CNG bus which emits much less greenhouse gases will soon be replacing almost all bus in city. The CNG buses, however had exploded 8 times here in Korea since 2005 including this week’s case but not much of safety check had been thoroughly executed yet. Many are suggesting over the web to place the gas tanks over the head of the bus to minimize the potential harm from the explosion. Currently the tanks are mostly installed under the floor of the vehicle and Joongang’s picture (first image) tells why several passengers got severely hurt around legs and ankles from the accident.

A Korean blogger Jotdding who is studying economics in a Japanese graduate school, compared Korean case with those of United States and Japan. In US, bus loads the gas tanks over the top of the bus and Japan is gradually exchanging the location of the gas tanks from the bottom to the top. The blogger went further on stressing there is never ‘too much’ in precaution, praising the ‘fussiness’(as in extreme alertness) that can be seen from Japanese people when it comes to safety issue.

이번 사고를 합하면 벌써 8번째라 하는데 그 동안 무슨 대책을 세워 왔는지 묻고 싶습니다…CGN 버스의 구조입니다. 이번 폭발한 가스통은 버스의 밑에 장착이 되어 있는데 미국은 이것이 버스 위에 장착이 되어있다고 하더군요. 가스통이 폭발할 때 수직으로 상승하면서 폭발하기 때문에 위에 장착되어 있으면 피해를 최소화할 수 있다고 합니다…일본은 우리가 생각하는 것에 비해 너무하다 싶을 정도로 설레발을 치곤 하지만, 그런 설레발이 안전함을 담보해 주는 것이 아닌가 하고 느낄 때도 있습니다.

This is said to be the eight times the (CNG)bus explosion occurred in Korea and I don’t know what measures they have taken so far…This is the CNG bus’s structure. The gas tanks are installed in the bottom of the bus as in this week’s accident. In the United States, the tanks are installed in the head. When the gas exploded, it is fired straight up. So, when the tanks are installed on the top, the damage can be minimized…Japanese people sometimes seem to act to all ‘fussy’ and I came to think that (seemingly) ‘fussiness’ guarantees the safety of the people.

The photos are from the from Qnahsladml’s blog

A netizen who introduced himself as former director of a CNG gas station posted a long article listing three fundamental problems of the CNG bus operation in Daum’s Agora site. This article recorded more than hundred thousand views just within few days. Three critical problems he mentioned are the understaffed CGN gas stations, the bus companies and gas station owner’s stinginess on safety check and lack of professionals in regional offices which oversee the bus transportation.

버스회사 오너들과 충전소 오너들은 버스 충전지연으로 버스가 정상 시간에 운행되지 못하는 것만 신경을 씁니다. 또한 안전점검하고 관리하는 직원들을 할일 없는 사람 취급을 합니다. 안전관리를 말만 외칠 뿐 현실적 인건 외면을 합니다. 모든 사고는 1차 관리만 잘 이루어지면 80% 이상은 막을 수 있다고 생각합니다.

The gas station and bus company owners are focusing exclusively on running bus on schedule and treat those staff who check on safety as someone who have nothing better to do. (Publically) They chant that we have to check on safety, but in reality they neglect it… More than 80 percent of accidents are preventable with proper safety checks on basic level.

One of largest bus driver’s associations, Korean Automobile and Transport Workers’ Federation issued a statement today urging the government department and regional offices to address issue seriously and threatened to even go on strikes. According to the federation, the government and regional office had been too consumed in making impressive statistics environmental-wise and hurriedly adopted more clean buses without taking precautionary measures. People safety, however is not the thing that can be compromised. A netizen ID: Haeorm from Daum’s Agora site reflected this view.

현재 서울시에서 굴러 다니는 대중교통 버스 차량 7천 558대 전량에 대해 연말까지로 하여 모두 CNG버스로 개량한다고 하는데, 공해 오존 문제로 고심하고 있는 市가 시내버스 전체를 무공해 버스로 대체하겠다는 복안에 대해 만류할 사람은 없겠지만도,그런 원대한 비전을 실천하기 전에라도 먼저, 빈발하는 CNG버스들의 폭발사고의 원인과 시스템 개선부터 선행하는 것이 일의 완급 순서가 아닐까.

I’ve heard an announcement that all the 7,558 buses, all the bus from the Seoul city will be replaced by the CNG bus. No one will object the city’s purpose of adopting (figuratively) zero pollution buses in a situation we suffer from the air pollution and ozone layer issue. But before they start working on this grand project, they first need (to address real problems) like identifying the reason of recurring CGN bus explosion and change the system. That is the order of how things should be done

Scorching weather which blamed for the accident has cooled down, but not people's anxiety over lax safety control.

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