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Van carrying gas tanks plows into pedestrians in Shanghai

A burning minivan careened into pedestrians on a sidewalk in downtown Shanghai on Friday, injuring 17 people, local police said.

The crash, which left the driver with injuries, occurred at 9 a.m. outside a Starbucks near People’s Park, a popular green area in the center of the city. All of those hit were taken to the hospital, including three who were seriously injured.

Authorities suspect the driver, identified only by his surname, Chen, was illegally transporting hazardous materials and lit the van on fire by smoking while driving. Chen, 40, works at a Shanghai metal products firm and has no criminal record.

A witness told the Paper, a local news outlet, that the van held several gas tanks. The fire was quickly extinguished, and the canisters did not appear to explode.

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Videos posted online show firefighters extinguishing flames pouring from a gray van blackened by the fire. People lay unconscious on the ground.

An eyewitness who went by the surname Qian told the local outlet that people tried to break the van’s window to reach the driver. “Maybe the driver passed out,” the witness said.

Shanghai police are continuing to investigate.

China has dealt with numerous situations in recent years in which citizens have used vehicles as weapons to express their frustration. Attackers last year drove a car into a government building and set off explosives in the volatile, far western region of Xinjiang.

More than 30 people died in 2014 when two cars plowed into shoppers at a busy market, also in Xinjiang.

In 2013, five people died and 40 others were injured when a vehicle slammed into a crowd and caught fire near the Forbidden City.

That incident occurred four months after a driver smashed into dozens of people on a sunny day in Barcelona, Spain, killing 13 people and leaving 80 injured. That marked the sixth such attack in recent years in Europe.

Friday’s crash occurred as British Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to speak in Shanghai.

Nicole Liu, Kemeng Fan and Gaochao Zhang in The Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

9:45 p.m.: The story was updated throughout with staff reporting.

The story was originally published at 8:20 p.m.


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