A public bus burst into flames in central Rome on Tuesday, bringing traffic to a standstill and underlying the parlous state of the capital’s transport system.
The spontaneous combustion of the bus – the latest of several similar incidents – happened on a busy shopping street between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.
Passengers managed to get off the bus before it was engulfed in flames and no one was hurt.
The fire was reportedly caused by a short-circuit. As the heat built up, windows exploded in front of crowds of onlookers.
The vehicle burned out of control on Via del Tritone, with a plume of dense black smoke rising up into the sky.
The bus blew up on a popular tourist route between the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, not far from parliament and other well-known landmarks.
The intensity of the fire scorched the exterior of nearby shops.
Buses in Rome regularly burst into flames, most commonly because of electrical faults in vehicles that are poorly maintained.
This was the ninth such blaze this year. Last year around 20 buses in Rome were damaged or destroyed by fire.
Mismanagement, a lack of investment and corruption have crippled the city’s public transport network, which is run by a corporation called Atac.
A former head of the transport authority said last year that the company had around €1.3 billion of debts.
According to an internal report, 36 percent of all the company’s buses are in garages because they have broken down or are undergoing maintenance, with the figure rising to 50 percent for the city’s fleet of trams.
Long-suffering Romans, who have seen their city slide ever further into dysfunction and dilapidation, reacted to the burning bus with characteristic black humour.
“Who needs Isis when you have Atac?” tweeted one Roman, while another continued the theme: “Bus on fire in Rome. Isis attack? No, Atac did it themselves.”
Another Italian cracked a joke that played on Rome’s ancient appellation as “Roma caput mundi” or “Rome, capital of the world.”
He suggested that “Roma caput Burundi” would be more appropriate.
Others noted with irony that the back of the bus was covered with a poster for The Last Judgement, a sound and light show about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.
Spontaneously combusting buses are not the only challenges faced by Rome’s council.
Budget cuts and a lack of employees means that parks and verges are chest-high in grass and shrubs, many of the city’s roads are pock-marked with deep potholes and rubbish collection is erratic.