Two Die, Children Injured in Southwest China School Blast

2013-09-09
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Damaged motorbikes and debris lie on the ground after the deadly explosion in Guilin, Sept. 9, 2013.
AFP

At least two people died and more than a dozen were injured, some of them schoolchildren, on Monday after an explosion outside a school in the southwestern Chinese city of Guilin that eyewitnesses said was very powerful and caused "total chaos."

An eyewitness who saw the 7:10 a.m. blast outside Balijie primary school in Guilin's Lingwu county said he believed it was a suicide bombing.

"This was a suicide bombing, with heads, hands, and limbs lying 40 or 50 meters away from the explosion site after it went off," said the Lingwu county resident, who declined to be named.

"There were definitely explosives used here; this wasn't just a case of a motorbike exploding."

"If this had been [an accidental] explosion, it wouldn't have had that much force," the resident said. "All the windows were blown out."

A man and a woman were killed outright, and the injured, who include 10 students, were taken to hospital, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

More may have died

But the eyewitness suggested that more people may have died than the numbers reported by Xinhua.

"They are keeping a tight lid on the true number of deaths," he said. "There are a lot of police around and I daren't take photos."

A worker in a nearby health clinic said the area had been sealed off by police.

"It's all sealed off ... there are a lot [of police]," she said. "But I'm busy with it, so I can't speak now."

A second Lingwu resident surnamed Chang said the noise from the blast had been very loud, although he hadn't seen the explosion.

"I heard it myself, but I don't know what kind of explosion it was," Chang said. "But it was a big bang that sounded like explosives."

He said he had been at a distance of 300-400 meters from the blast. "I thought at the time that maybe somebody's stove had exploded, but people told me later that people had died outside the school gates."

An employee who answered the phone at the Balijie neighborhood committee of the ruling Communist Party said police would issue a statement on the blast "when the time comes."

"There are no classes running at the school now," the employee said.

'Tremendous' explosion

According to the Xinhua report, a man riding a three-wheeled motorcycle had passed by the entrance to the school when the blast occurred.

"The motorcycle caught fire and then exploded with a tremendous noise that could be heard from far, far away," Xinhua quoted an eyewitness as saying.

A dozen motorcycles were scattered around the blast site and car and shop windows were shattered in the explosion, the agency said.

The proprietor of a hotel opposite the school said the scene had looked like "total chaos," with people scurrying for cover in all directions and a number of overturned motorbikes and electric bikes in the immediate vicinity of the blast.

"Some people were lying on the ground; some were injured," she said. "Some were immediately taken to hospital, but most of the people I saw lying on the ground were adults."

"It was exactly the time that the kids come to school, so there were a lot of parents bringing their children to school," she said.

"Some people are saying it was an exploded battery, but would it have such force? There are 10 floors in our hotel, and they were all affected, so just think how big it must have been."

'Investigation still incomplete'

An official who answered the phone at the Lingwu county government offices confirmed that the explosion had taken place outside the school gates.

"The main damage was the shattered glass in all the windows," the employee said.

"[The motorbike tricycle driver] was among [the dead]. The investigation is still incomplete so were are still unsure [about the details]."

Police have launched an investigation into the cause of the blast, and will conduct city-wide searches for illegal explosives, the Guilin municipal government said in a statement.

The Hong Kong-based China News Service said a total of 44 people received injuries ranging from light to severe, 22 of them children.

Seventeen people, 10 of them children, were taken to hospital for treatment for injuries sustained in the blast, Xinhua said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.