Investigators examine the exploded parts of a bus Tuesday, a day after the compressed natural gas-powered vehicle exploded at a crossroad of Haengdang-dong subway station, northeastern Seoul. / Korea Times
By Bae Ji-sook
The explosion of the compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered public transit bus on a street in Seoul Monday is seeing mounting anxiety among commuters as they express concerns over safety.
The city government vowed to conduct safety checkups on all 7,234 CNG buses in operation by the end of the month and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy advised CNG bus drivers to lower the gas pressure by 10 percent when recharging.
Police said Monday’s explosion, which injured 17 passengers including one female who had her feet severed, may have been caused by a problem with the gas tank. They are still looking into the case to determine the exact cause of the incident.
“According to witnesses, the explosion took place when the bus driver applied the brakes at a zebra crossing and the vehicle had come to an abrupt stop. It is highly likely that the gas tank, manufactured in 2000 and tagged with an expiration date for 2015, had several flaws,” an officer at the Seongbuk Police Station said after looking into the problematic bus with gas experts.
The explosion was powerful enough to break the windows of nearby buildings but no sparks or flames were detected at the scene, the officer said.
“It could have been a problem with the container or the pipe. The gas could have leaked and under the right conditions exploded,” said a researcher at the Korea Gas Safety Corporation.
The authorities are striving to prevent any further accidents on the remaining 7,233 buses, which make up 95.8 percent of the buses operating in Seoul. The administration is planning to buy 300 more of the buses by the end of the year.
There have been eight CNG vehicle-related accidents between 2005 and 2008 nationwide. But none of them involved a vehicle that was currently in operation.
City officials are also paying extra attention to 42 recharging stations in the city because most of the accidents have taken place while they were parked for recharging. “During this hot weather, many things could happen,” one official said.
Citizens have expressed anxiety over the issue since buses are one of the main means of transportation. They have also urged the government to set up better safety measures.
A netizen with the ID jeyonishvalue said, “This is really scary because I love riding buses. I never thought the environmentally-friendly vehicles could harm humans.”
A twitter user, ID go ㅡ100 commented, “Don’t sit on the central part because I heard the gas tanks are there.” Another citizen with ID jojokon quipped, “Now this is another way of enjoying the summer thrill ㅡ to sit on top of a gas tank and drive around Seoul.”