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Angry man set bus fire that killed 47 in China, authorities say

Investigators at the scene of a bus fire Friday in Xiamen, China, that killed 47 people, including the disgruntled man authorities said set the blaze.
(AFP / Getty Images)

BEIJING -- Chinese police said Saturday that a disgruntled man set a fire that roared through a commuter bus Friday in Xiamen, leaving 47 people dead including himself, Chinese state media reported.

The suspect was identified as Chen Shuizong, 59. Police found a suicide note at his home and family members were quoted as saying he had been petitioning the government over the denial of social security benefits.

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Petitioning is a longrunning Chinese system for addressing grievances by sending letters to government agencies for lack of a well-functioning judicial system. In the past, angry petitioners have been implicated in bombings, but the high toll in the bus fire makes it one of China’s deadliest such acts in recent years.

Shocking footage showed the overcrowded bus engulfed in flames on an overhead roadway in the coastal city, formerly known as Amoy. The fire took place at the height of the evening rush hour and 90 people were on the bus, authorities said. In addition to those killed, 34 were hospitalized, many in critical condition.

The Xinhua news service reported that notes found in Chen’s home showed he was “unhappy and pessimistic about his life, and planned the arson to vent personal grievances.”

Family members were quoted on microblog sites as saying that Chen had been petitioning for years to correct an error in his age on his registration documents that prevented him from receiving social security benefits.

In 2009, an unemployed man in Chengdu killed himself and 26 others by setting fire to a bus.

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