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18 hurt as burning van slams into crowd in Shanghai
[SHANGHAI] A van caught fire and ploughed into pedestrians on a crowded pavement outside a Starbucks in central Shanghai on Friday, injuring at least 18 people, three of them seriously, authorities and witnesses said.
The incident occurred at People's Park in the heart of the city around 9.00 am (0100 GMT), when crowds of residents would have been on their way to work.
A Shanghai police statement said a preliminary investigation indicated that the driver of the van, a 40-year-old man, had been smoking while driving and that the vehicle had contained "dangerous substances" that apparently ignited.
Zhang Sai, a security guard at an adjacent building, told AFP the van was on fire when it veered out of control and jumped the curb, striking some pedestrians and sending others scurrying to get out of the way.
"It happened around 8.50am. The van was on fire before it crashed on the sidewalk," he said.
Amateur video clips circulating on Chinese social media showed several people sprawled on the pavement and receiving medical treatment from fire and rescue personnel.
Other images that circulated on state-run social media platforms showed a fire burning inside the van, which had come to a stop in front of a tree after apparently striking some fencing near the entrance to the Starbucks.
Several fire trucks and police cars were pictured at the scene.
AFP journalists who arrived at the site in the wake of the accident found the area had been quickly cleared by authorities.
A small police presence remained on hand standing watch. Damage to the fencing outside the Starbucks could be seen, but otherwise there was little evidence of an accident.
The coffee shop was locked up and a notice was taped to the door saying it had been closed and advising customers to go to other nearby outlets.
In 2013, two tourists were killed when a car rammed into bystanders on Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square before bursting into flames.
Three attackers also died in the incident, which Beijing blamed on separatists from the restive western region of Xinjiang.