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Rome bus on fire
EPA/Massimo Percossi
Combustion ATAC.
THE FIRE NEXT TIME

Rome’s buses are mysteriously spontaneously combusting

By Thu-Huong Ha

On May 8, a public bus dramatically caught fire in downtown Rome. Hours later, a second bus caught fire south of the city. There were no deaths or serious injuries in either event, but these are estimated to be the city’s 31st and 32nd bus explosion since early 2017.

Rome’s buses have been bursting into flames following technical failures with seeming regularity for the last year and a half. In 2017, around 20 buses caught fire, and last week’s were the ninth and tenth so far in 2018.

The first fire on May 8 happened to bus 63 while it was on Via del Tritone. Passengers were evacuated when the driver saw the engine smoking.

The bus was a 2003 Mercedes-Benz Citaro, much older than the ideal service time for a public bus, six or seven years, according to the New York Times. It’s possible that old and poorly insulated wires led to a current running on the wrong path, which could have caused a spark and led to a fire within the bus’s electrical system. (Rome’s transportation company, ATAC, has not responded to request for comment.)

On the same day, a bus randomly caught fire because of a short circuit in Bangkok, while in January, 52 passengers died because of a short circuit and blocked door on a bus en route from Uzbekistan to Russia.

Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Photos and videos of the various accidents, some of which are tagged “flambus” (a play on the portmanteau “trambus”) on social media, show unattended buses with thick, dark columns of smoke and car sides engulfed in flames, with blackened building façades and crispy bus skeletons left behind after the fires have been put out.

Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi