A series of "huge" explosions ripped through public buildings in the southwestern Chinese region of Guangxi on Wednesday, killing at least seven people, injuring more than 50, and destroying vehicles and buildings, local residents and state media said.
The explosions left confusion and chaos in their wake, as terrified local residents ran for cover, then posted photos of gutted buildings and plumes of smoke and dust in the wake of the blasts they said "shook the earth."
One resident of Guangxi's Dapu township said he was just a few hundred meters from one of the blasts, which collapsed buildings and sent plumes of smoke and debris towering into the sky, according to photos posted online.
"I just heard several explosions," the resident said. "They were really, really loud, and they shook the earth, even from 500, 600 meters away from where I was."
Local police said via social media that they are now investigating 13 reports of explosions, which ripped through public places including a jail, a supermarket, and an area close to a hospital.
Two people have been reported missing, as reports of more than 60 suspicious packages have continued to flood in, and rescue services have rushed to the scene, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.
It said police have made an initial detention of a 33-year-old suspect surnamed Wei, but police and government officials told RFA that details are still sketchy amid an ongoing investigation.
"The explosions collapsed a building; it was terrifying," the Dapu resident said.
"There was also a report of an explosion at a bus stop near a police station. Buildings have collapsed in several places, and cars were turned right over by the blast," he said.
"There were cars and even trolley buses that were flung into the air; it's terrifying."
He said police have since sealed off the entire area affected by the blasts.
"The traffic cops have closed the road; I just took a few photos and they are stopping vehicles going that way," the resident said. "I am staying home; luckily I didn't go out today."
"Who would dare to venture out today, when its so dangerous to go to public places?"
A local resident surnamed Huang said she heard several explosions in the space of about one hour.
"I wasn't at the scene of the explosions, but the blasts shook my glass table, and shook the ground; it was a big shock wave," Huang said.
"The explosions started at about 4.00 p.m., and carried on until just after 5.00 p.m.," she said. "I thought they were dynamiting rocks in the hills."
Huang said she had counted "more than 10" separate explosions, adding that local news reports had said there were 13.
"They were at public transportation stops, shopping malls, and near the county government too," she said.
Chaos on the streets
A third Dapu resident described chaotic scenes on the township's streets.
"It's awful; everyone on the street is running and terrified, and there are police cars everywhere," the resident said.
"I felt so scared when I heard these ... huge noises," she added. "Apparently there were some bombs hidden in parcels, but I don't really know."
Officials who answered the phone at the Dapu township police department and county government propaganda bureau declined to comment in detail on Wednesday.
"Things aren't clear yet, and we don't yet know anything," a Dapu police department official said.
"I have no way to answer your questions right now. No comment," the official said.
An officer who answered the phone at the Liucheng county police department, which oversees Dapu, said: "We are in the process of investigating [the incidents] and all of our news is being coordinated as a single source by the propaganda department."
"We still don't know much, as investigations are still ongoing."
Liuzhou-based rights activist Li Jianghan said the authorities had yet to determine whether the blasts were the result of a terror attack or the result of personal grievance.
While Beijing has recently launched an "anti-terrorism" campaign after a string of violent incidents linked to the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang, Li said that previous blasts in public places have also been the result of deep social tensions, personal grievances, and disgruntled petitioners.
"The fact that they chose the day before National Day to do this will cause a lot of debate and concern," Li said.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.