BEIJING — A fire that blazed through a bus and killed 47 people in China was started deliberately by a suicidal man, according to reports on Saturday by state-run news agencies.
The bus explosion and resulting fire occurred at 18:20 pm on Friday during the evening commute in Xiamen, a port city in south-eastern China.
The official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday that investigators said the fire appears to have been set deliberately, after finding traces of gasoline on the wreckage though the bus ran on diesel fuel.
“It’s a serious criminal case,” the ministry of public security, the national police agency said in a statement on its website.
In total, 47 people are confirmed as dead, 34 more have been hospitalized. Of these, seven are students. Eight students are still unaccounted for, said Xinhua.
State-run news organizations have identified the instigator of the fire as Chen Shuizong, who was about 60-years-old and is described as impoverished.
Shuizong, who is believed to have died in the explosion, had written a suicide note in which he expressed deep frustration, said reports based on details from the ongoing investigation released by officials in Xiamen.
Witnesses statements at Xiamen’s official news site said they heard explosions after the fire had been blazing for 10 minutes.
Southern Daily, the official newspaper of Guangdong Province, posted a photo of the man identified as Suizong who is seen in the picture pulling a bag behind him.
Xiamen is located on the southeast coast of China in the Fujian Province.
It is considered one of the most prosperous and habitable cities in a country full of polluted and overly dense urban centers. According to the latest census, its population is 3.5 million, with more than 265,000 traveling on the city’s bus system daily.
In recent years China has been hit by numerous bombings and arson of buses and public buildings, some carried out by people with personal grievances and others by individuals or groups with overtly political motives.
In 2009, another unemployed man set fire to a packed bus in the central city of Chengdu, killing himself and 26 others. In May 2011, at least two people were killed and six hurt in explosions at government office buildings in the city of Fuzhou, in Jiangxi Province.
Since Friday’s bus fire, Xiamen city officials immediately suspended service of the entire express bus system, known as Bus Rapid Transit.
The criminal investigation continues.
[Image via Huffington Post]