The scene of a highway crash near Lanzhou in northwestern China's Gansu province on Saturday quickly devolved into a free-for-all after hundreds of villagers swarmed to the site and stole tonnes of oranges spilled from an overturned fruit truck.
Villagers armed with plastic bags and sacks scrambled to carry off crates of oranges that had fallen off the truck as police officers called to the scene tried but failed to contain the chaos.
Pictures published in local newspapers showed villagers busily sweeping loose oranges into their sacks beside a large pile of broken plastic crates, hay covers and crushed oranges.
Police had to raise their guns while trying to stop some eager thieves from carrying away their bulging sacks full of loot, and shouted at late-comers to back off.
One picture in a local newspaper showed an elderly woman frozen in mid-action holding a folded bag, while a police officer pointed a gun at her. But right beside her, another woman with a plastic bag half full with oranges was apparently undeterred, looking back at the policeman in amusement.
In another picture, a sole police officer was seen standing on the highway and pointing his gun at a horde of villagers leaving with their loot on a dirt path near the highway.
It was unclear if the driver of the truck was injured in the crash.
Some netizens found the incident hilarious while others called the scene “ugly”.
“The harvest is based on the owner’s agony,” one netizen wrote.
Many Weibo users questioned why police officers would for such a trivial incident.
“I don’t see police officers use their guns when dealing with corrupt officials that embezzled millions. So why point their guns at villagers picking up oranges?” a Weibo user wrote.
A similar looting happened late last year in Hebei province, where villagers snatched up 35 tonnes of oranges that had fallen off a truck in an accident. More recently, a truck loaded with walnuts caught fire on a highway in Hunan Province on Monday and local villagers rushed to the scene for “toasted” walnuts.