At least 18 people have been injured, three of them seriously, when a van has invaded the sidewalk and hit the crowd in the center of Shanghai, in an incident that the police have attributed to a traffic accident. As reported by the local press, the vehicle, which was carrying gasoline cylinders, was already on fire before breaking into the pedestrian zone.
The incident occurred at around 9 am local time in front of a busy Starbucks in the People’s Square, where there are several dependencies of the Shanghai City Hall and one of the busiest areas of the capital Chinese economy
According to the version of the police, the driver, an employee of a metal products factory, allegedly illegally transported gasoline when he lit a cigarette that set the vehicle on fire. Frightened, he lost control of the van and crashed it.
The driver, says a police statement, is named Chen, is 40 years old, comes from the neighboring province of Jiangxi and lacks a criminal record.
A witness surnamed Qian told the Chinese digital newspaper “The Paper”, based in Shanghai, that six people were traveling in the van. After the impact the driver was unconscious and several people in the neighborhood broke the windows with stones to get the occupants out. All the injured were transferred to various hospitals, without fear for their lives.
Although the version of the Police emphasizes that in this case, it has been an incident, there have been cases in the past in which citizens seeking revenge for some damage, real or felt, perpetrated similar acts.
In October 2013, an SUV carrying three members of the Uighur minority, of Muslim faith, and carrying gas cylinders, ran over several people in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before crashing near the Forbidden City.
Five people were killed in the incident, which Beijing called an “act of terrorism.” According to the Chinese government, the occupants of the vehicle belonged to a separatist organization seeking independence from Xinjiang, the province in northwest China, home to the Uyghurs.