Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu turned away journalists on Friday after a man set off a homemade bomb, leaving eight dead and dozens injured, at the gates of a kindergarten during school pick-up time the day before.
The blast rocked the local neighborhood at 4:48 p.m. local time as family members were waiting to pick up their children, killing two people at the scene. Six more died of their injuries in hospital, the local authorities said in statement.
Journalists near the scene of the blast on Friday told RFA they had been told by officials to leave the area, which had been cordoned off by police.
Video of the altercation seen by RFA showed a journalist being shoved by a group of plainclothes police officers.
Residents of Jiangsu’s Xuzhou city described hearing a massive bang on Thursday and seeing the aftermath of the blast outside the kindergarten, state media reported, as photos circulated on social media showing several bodies lying in a street.
Police said the bomber, a 22-year-old man surnamed Xu, had scrawled death-related phrases on the walls of his rented apartment near the school. He was killed in the blast, state media reported.
The bomber had “lost his place” at an unnamed college owing to a “neurological condition,” Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
Police found homemade explosives in his apartment, and the Chinese characters for “Death,” “Die,” and “Destroy” daubed on the walls, the report said.
Friday’s official account was at odds with initial statements put out by local government, a Xuzhou resident told RFA.
Local resident Liu Jianguo said local authorities had initially issued statements saying that the blast was caused by exploding gas cylinders at street food stalls near the kindergarten.
“Both the [county] government propaganda department and the municipal government propaganda departments issued statements,” Liu said. “They said it was probably from gas cylinders at a food stall near the school gates, and that everyone had been taken to hospital for treatment.”
An official who answered the phone at the Feng county police department said the authorities are still evacuating people from the area around the blast.
“We still don’t yet know [many details]. Investigations are ongoing. Staff at the hospital are still working to save people, and police are pro-actively evacuating residents.”
Online Chinese news service Frontline News named the suspect as Xu Taoran, a native of Xuzhou’s Quanshan district.
Xu had been scheduled to attend his graduation ceremony on Thursday at a university in the city, and that his father had access to explosives as part of his business.
It said Xu rented a basement apartment in the Fengyuan residential compound and had “thrown a black backpack” near the kindergarten gates on the day of the explosion.
RFA was unable to confirm any of the claims in the report.
An official who answered the phone at the Feng county government offices on Friday said local leaders were at the scene of the blast, but further details were unavailable.
“Please can you call the propaganda department,” the official said. Calls to the propaganda department rang unanswered during office hours on Friday, however.
Xinhua said a team of top doctors had been ordered to Xuzhou to assist local medical teams with 65 injured people, some of whom were in critical condition.
Reported by Pan Jiaqing for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.