At least 18 people have been injured after a van crashed into pedestrians on a busy Shanghai street.A minivan carrying gas canisters has ploughed into pedestrians and burst into flames in downtown Shanghai, injuring 18 people in the heart of the Chinese financial hub, local authorities report.
Police appeared to dismiss fears that the crash was a deliberate attack, describing it as an accident caused when a driver who was smoking lost control of his vehicle and veered onto the footpath on Friday.
The 40-year-old driver, who police identified only by his surname Chen, and two other people suffered serious injuries.
Chen works for a Shanghai metals company and had no criminal record but was now under suspicion of transporting dangerous materials, police said.
“It couldn’t stop, crashed into the corner and caught fire,” said a cleaner who works in a building across the street from the crash site. Like many Chinese, she asked only to be identified by her surname, Xu.
She told The Associated Press she saw smoke coming out of the van as it drove down the street before veering out of control.
The minivan veered onto a sidewalk and burst into flames around 9am near People’s Park, authorities said.
The website of the local Xinmin Wanbao newspaper and other local news outlets said the van struck five to six people waiting for a light change at a busy pedestrian crossing.
Videos on social media showed injured people lying on the pavement next to a Starbucks cafe and others pinned under the tyres of the van. Firefighters were seen trying to put out a blaze inside the vehicle.
The Shanghai-based news outlet Pengpai, citing a witness, reported that the vehicle was carrying six people and several canisters of gas typically used for cooking and heating.
A man who witnessed the crash on his way to People’s Park said in a video interview carried by Chinese media outlets that the minivan seemed to be moving fast as it veered across the road.
“The minivan did not slow down. The driver must have been in a panic at the time. He didn’t slow down and just directly crashed,” said the witness, who wasn’t identified.
The man said people cracked open the windows of the vehicle trying to rescue passengers who appeared to be unconscious.
Friday’s crash occurred just as British Prime Minister Theresa May was speaking at a business event in Shanghai.