An explosion on a bus in Yibin, Sichuan province killed one and injured roughly 20 others during the afternoon rush hour yesterday. Officials said an initial investigation suggested it was a case of arson.
The blast occurred at 4.50pm as the city bus travelled across Nanmen Bridge, Xinhua reported, citing a 12-year-old girl who was sitting in the last row.
Photos posted on social media show heavy plumes of smoke rising from the burning vehicle. Injured passengers, some appearing to be suffering from burns, are seen lying on the bridge in the photos.
The victims included a number of schoolchildren, according to local media reports.
The Yibin government's publicity department said late last night that the fire and explosion had killed one and injured 19.
There were 76 passengers on the Route 14 city bus, the Yibin government statement said.
Hours earlier, state and local media reported the number of injured at more than 20.
The bus company and an official from the city's work safety bureau said a preliminary investigation suggested the explosion resulted from a deliberate act of arson and that at least one suspect had been identified, according to online reports by the official People's Daily and West China City Daily.
A statement released by the city's information office's late last night made no mention of an act of arson, saying only that the cause of the blaze was under investigation.
Hu Jingwen, the girl seated in the back of the bus at the time of the blaze, said she detected the odour of gasoline before the fire "suddenly" broke out at the back door of the vehicle.
Xinhua reported Hu escaped through a back window with two of her classmates. She is receiving treatment at the city's No3 People's Hospital.
There have been several attacks on public transport in recent years. Authorities have attributed the attacks to people who may have social grievances.