Panic in Shanghai today where many feared for a moment that they had been hit by a terrorist attack when a burning van drove into a group of people, wounding 18 of whom 4 remain in critical condition.
According to the official police report, the crash was caused by a 40-year old man, named only as Chen, who was smoking inside the van, which ignited the gas canisters in the vehicle.
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Videos on social media showed injured people lying on the pavement next to a Starbucks cafe and others pinned under the tires of the van. Firefighters were seen trying to put out a blaze inside the vehicle.
A Shanghai-based Starbucks spokesman claimed that the store was not damaged and its customers and employees were safe: “the store is currently closed and we will assist the authorities in their investigations."
Authorities attempted to dismiss fears the crash could have been an attack in the heart of the Chinese financial hub. Chen, who was injured in the collision, works for a Shanghai metals company and had no criminal record but is now arrested on suspicion of transporting dangerous materials.
The vast city center plaza is also home to the headquarters of the Shanghai municipal government, which oversees a metropolis of almost 25 million people that is widely regarded as China’s most cosmopolitan city.
Mr Xu, who works across the street from the crash site declared: “It couldn’t stop, crashed into the corner and caught fire.”
“Two men were trying to pull the passenger out of the car, but failed. Other people told them to stop. Then the police and ambulance arrived.”
<blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="ja" dir="ltr">上海で歩行者に車突っ込む 18人搬送 現場動画 <a href="https://t.co/9qvPvXQ5gz">https://t.co/9qvPvXQ5gz</a><a href="https://t.co/HRBVMpJCfP">pic.twitter.com/HRBVMpJCfP</a></p>— 岡三マン (@okasanman) <a href="https://twitter.com/okasanman/status/959273406091833345?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Amateur video clips circulating on Chinese social media showed several people sprawled on the pavement and receiving medical treatment from fire and rescue personnel.
The ‘accident’ happened just as the UK Prime Minister Theresa May was visiting the city a few blocks further.