Five killed, 38 hurt as jeep crashes and burns in Tiananmen Square
Cause unknown after vehicle careers 500 metres along pedestrian walkway before crashing into barrier and bursting into flames
Five people were killed and 38 injured when a jeep rammed through barricades in front of Tiananmen Square's gate tower and burst into flames yesterday.
Three people inside the vehicle died, along with two tourists, who were identified by police only as a Filipino woman and a man from Guangdong.
The explosive crash at the symbolic heart of Beijing - just under the massive portrait of Mao Zedong - led some to speculate whether it was an accident or an attack.
The incident comes at an especially sensitive time, just ahead of the Communist Party's third plenum to thrash out social and economic policies. But by last night, neither the Beijing police nor state media had offered an official explanation.
Some internet users doubted whether such a crash at Tiananmen Square, scene of the 1989 crackdown, was accidental. A user on Twitter posted a purported police notice about looking for two men and an SUV from Xinjiang "following a major crime today".
"That section of pedestrian walkway is filled with tourists," another wrote on Sina Weibo. "It seems ... an intentional act."
Xinhua reported that unidentified senior officials from the central government had inspected the scene later.
All seven members of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee attended an event at the Great Hall of the People across the road yesterday morning.
Police said the jeep approached from the north on Nanchizi Street and turned right into the pedestrian lane of Changan Avenue, which runs east to west between the gate tower and the main part of Tiananmen Square.
After careering 500 metres along the pedestrian walkway, it struck the barrier of the Jinshui Bridge in front of the gate tower at 12.05pm, injuring dozens of tourists and police officers.
"We just went out of the Forbidden City and wanted to go through the underground passage to Tiananmen Square when a jeep drove fast [towards us]," a 23-year-old Filipino woman knocked out by the impact told the Southern Metropolis Daily.
"I heard the jeep's horn, but it was too late. When I came to consciousness again, we were all lying on the ground," she said.
The woman was on a city tour with her parents and sister. She, her father and younger sister are in hospital receiving treatment, but she had no information on her mother's condition.
A witness who declined to be identified told the South China Morning Post: "We saw several ambulances there.
"Policemen came quickly and had us change our route to clear the traffic."
The capital's official news portal Qianlong.com said the injured included at least three people from the Philippines and at least one tourist from Japan.
Video: Several dead, dozens injured in Tiananmen Square car crash