Depressed vendor blamed for deadly Xiamen bus fire

Blog left by Xiamen arsonist tells of bullying by officers and failed attempts to get pension

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 6:34am

Police in Xiamen believe a disgruntled street vendor started the fire on an express bus on Friday in which he and 46 other passengers were killed and 34 injured, many seriously.

The city government said the discovery of petrol in the shell of the bus showed the fire had been started intentionally because the bus ran on diesel.

According to China Central Television, Chen Shuizong, 59, a Xiamen native, started the fire to vent his grievances. A suicide note was found at his home.

The fire broke out at 6.30pm when the packed express bus carrying about 90 commuters was on an elevated section of road. The fire took half an hour to extinguish.

"Chen Shuizong felt his life was not as he wished it and was profoundly pessimistic, so he gave vent to his anger by starting the fire," CCTV said in a brief report.

On Thursday, Chen wrote on his microblog that he had been a street vendor since 1994 and had been bullied for years by urban management officers.

He had recently applied for a pension but was refused several times because the government said he did not qualify. His microblog was still accessible yesterday morning but was blocked in the afternoon.

The Nanfang Daily reported that Chen's house in the Fujian city's Siming district had been blocked by police as teams with sniffer dogs searched the scene. Chen's brother told the newspaper that Chen had petitioned the Xiamen government several times about his treatment.

It is not the first case on the mainland in which a person who felt unfairly treated by authorities has targeted innocent passengers on public transport.

Around 200 people seeking their loved ones gathered to wait for the identities of those killed to be released. Some were angry and said the city government should be held responsible for the fire.

"My girlfriend called me at about 6pm. We were to meet for a date but I have been unable to contact her since then. I have searched all the hospitals in Xiamen," one young man said. "But she's gone. She's only 23."

Meanwhile, a furniture factory in Jinan , Shandong province, caught fire yesterday. The fire broke out at 7pm and the 600 square metre plant was soon engulfed in flames, China News Service reported. All the workers were evacuated. The cause of the fire was not known.