Eight people were killed and 65 injured on Thursday in an explosion at a kindergarten in eastern China that police have described as a “criminal” act, state media said.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that police had made a preliminary judgment that the blast was a “criminal offence”, and they had identified a suspect.
Many parents were picking up their children when the blast took place around 5 PM near the entrance of the kindergarten in Xuzhou, in the coastal province of Jiangsu, the official Xinhua news agency said on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
Two people died on the spot and six more died of their injuries in hospital. Xinhua reported that the number of injured had risen to 65 by 11 PM on Thursday, with eight in critical condition.
Pictures circulating on Chinese social media showed about a dozen women and children lying on the ground in what appeared to be the immediate aftermath of the blast.
One video showed an injured woman with scorched clothing staggering unsteadily, while others sat on a floor holding crying children in their arms.
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos. None of the casualties was children or teachers, Xinhua said. Blasts and other accidents are common in China because of patchy enforcement of safety rules, although the government has pledged to improve checks to stamp out such incidents.
Police from Xuzhou city urged social media commentators to share only information from official channels after some users posted videos of an April explosion, which they said depicted Thursday’s incident. The cause of the blast was also not immediately clear, although online commentators said it could have been a gas canister explosion.
Bus on fire, knife attacks
It is the latest tragedy to strike a kindergarten in China in recent weeks.
A school bus packed with kindergarten pupils erupted in flames inside a tunnel in eastern Shandong province on May 9, killing 11 children, a teacher, and the driver. Officials later said the fire was intentionally set by the driver, who was angry at losing overtime wages. There have also been knife attacks at schools in recent years.
In January, a man armed with a kitchen knife stabbed and wounded 11 children at a kindergarten in southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. In February last year, a knife-wielding assailant wounded 10 children in a schoolyard in Haikou, in the southern island province of Hainan, before committing suicide. In 2014, state media reported that a man stabbed three children and a teacher to death and wounded several others in a rampage at a primary school that refused to enrol his daughter.
That followed a March 2013 incident, in which a man killed two relatives and then slashed 11 people, including six children, outside a school in China´s commercial hub Shanghai.