Bus fire kills 17 in northern China; suspect caught

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Jan 05, 2016 22:03 IST
Firefighters and policemen are seen working next to a burnt bus after a fire on a street in Yinchuan. (Reuters)

A debt-ridden migrant labourer set a packed bus on fire in northwest China on Tuesday, killing at least 17 people and leaving more than 30 with burn injuries.

The suspect, Ma Yongping, was arrested late in the afternoon after he threatened to jump off a building, state media reported.

A suicide letter purportedly signed by Ma said he had not been paid his dues for three years and his efforts to recover the money had failed. Police are investigating the letter’s authenticity.

According to the state media, Ma carried two buckets of fuel onto the bus in Helan county of the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, ignited them with a lighter and escaped from the window on the driver’s side.

State media quoted eyewitnesses as saying the bus belonged to a local transport company and was packed with more than 40 people. Pictures on microblog Sina Weibo, a social networking site, showed the bus engulfed by flames and smoke.

In addition to the 17 killed, eight were severely burnt, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Hundreds of policemen were dispatched to hunt for Ma, who was finally located and arrested from the terrace of a building from where he was threatening to jump.

China has seen several similar attacks involving citizens, reportedly angry for personal reasons or bearing a grudge against local authorities, who attacked public transport and even school children.

In July 2014, a 34-year-old man was suspected of setting fire to a bus in Hangzhou in the eastern Zhejiang Province, injuring 32 people.

In late 2012, a knife-wielding man attacked dozens of kindergarten children following family problems in central China.

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