Another fatal school bus accident, this time in the eastern province of Jiangsu, sparked fresh fury among Chinese netizens on Tuesday, who lashed out at local officials for delaying the release of the death toll to distraught parents.
At least 15 children died in Monday's accident, in which a school bus overturned into an irrigation canal with 29 students on board during the evening rush-hour in Jiangsu's Fengxian county, official media reported.
Students became trapped at the bottom of the overturned bus and drowned as water gushed into the wreck, according to Zhang Bin, deputy head of the Fengxian county government.
At least eight children remain in hospital after the accident, which is the third serious bus accident in less than a month, and has renewed fury among Chinese netizens over the country's appalling public safety record.
Many netizens retweeted a post from the New Express newspaper, which said: "When our reporter got to the scene of the hospital in Feng county, Xuzhou, the parents were scattered around the place in a disorganized manner."
"Almost 20 hours after the accident took place, they still didn't know whether their children were dead or alive."
The parents were told that the list of victims had to be sent to central government in Beijing before it could be announced, the paper said via the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.
"We can't announce it openly just because we want to," the parents were told, according to the newspaper.
"It's only been a few months since the [high-speed rail crash of] July 23," wrote user @kewuqingnian. "And they are harmonizing again already."
"How did these leaders get chosen, and which of them even looks like a human being?" wrote one user, @wangxiaozhao.
A second addressed the souls of the children who died in the crash: "Don't get reborn just yet," wrote user @payadexiaotianxie.
"Turn into harmful spirits and seek out those leaders ... OK?"
The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying that the bus driver, who was unharmed, had been detained for investigation.
Netizens appeared unconvinced by official news accounts of the accident, however.
"They are still trying to cover up the truth," wrote user @longqushuichengbao.
User @zuiairuisha-dajidali wrote: "Staying alive is so hard!"
"These people take taxpayers' money, and then this is how they treat the taxpayer," user @xiaoyouheihei posted in reply. "Give us back our public servants ... and don't bring disaster on the people."
New safety rules
The Chinese-manufactured Shaolin Auto bus was registered as a school bus for a primary school in Shouxian township, and wasn't overloaded when it overturned, the agency said.
"The accidents have highlighted the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the vehicles, especially in rural areas, where refitted vans or buses often travel on dirt roads to transport students," it added.
A second school bus crash in the southern city of Foshan on Monday injured 37 pupils, Xinhua quoted local officials as saying.
Beijing issued new safety rules governing school buses after a kindergarten bus crash in the western province of Gansu killed at least 21 children on Nov. 16.
The nine-seat school bus illegally carrying 64 people collided with a coal truck, killing 19 preschoolers and two adults, and injuring 43 others.
The government on Monday released a new set of safety regulations and standards for school buses.
Reported by Luisetta Mudie.