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Tibet imposes 20 people limit on tour buses after fatal accidents

A tour bus makes its way along winding mountain roads on virgin snow leading to the last outpost town of Deqen, north of Shangrila, in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on March 21, 2008 in southwest China's Yunnan province. .
A tour bus makes its way along winding mountain roads on virgin snow leading to the last outpost town of Deqen, north of Shangrila, in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on March 21, 2008 in southwest China's Yunnan province. . FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

BEIJING – Chinese authorities are limiting the number of passengers aboard tour buses on mountain roads of Tibet, following two fatal accidents involving such buses, two travel agencies and a man at the official Tibet Regional Tourism Bureau said Wednesday.

“It’s for safety,” said the man who answered the phone at the tourism bureau but refused to give his name, as common practice among Chinese bureaucrats. He confirmed the new rule that puts a 20-person limit on any tour vehicle, including a driver, a guide and a police officer, in Tibet.

Tourism has been booming in the Himalayan region, also home to some treacherous roads that wind and dip amid steep mountains.

A tour bus carrying about 50 people plunged into a ravine Aug. 9, after crashing with a pickup and a sports utility vehicle in southern Tibet. Forty-four people died.

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On Monday, a 45-person tour bus fell into a river in southeastern Tibet, killing three and leaving 13 others missing.

A man at the Lhasa Youth Travel Service, who gave only his last name Wang, said he received a notice announcing the limit on Tuesday. A woman at the Lhasa International Travel Service also confirmed the same directive, saying the recent traffic accidents prompted the size restriction on travelling groups.

Li Simin, an expert on tourism, said the measures, including the addition of a police officer on board, will improve safety.

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