Dozens of pupils at a school in Hunan province have fallen ill in a suspected poisoning attack, the latest in a string of such incidents across China. Students from Xintang secondary school in Xinhua county, Hunan, complained of feeling unwell after eating rice supplied by the school for breakfast, according to local newspaper Xiaoxiang Chenbao yesterday. The case highlighted the alarming trend for people to resort to mass poisoning as a means to vent their anger. The report said more casualties were avoided because the principal promptly stopped students from eating the rice after some reported that it smelled of pesticide. More than 80 students were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, but none was in a life-threatening condition. Teachers believed the incident was caused deliberately. The school had been repeatedly blackmailed by local gangsters, and following reports to the police, one of them was arrested, fuelling threats. A local police spokesman yesterday refused to comment. The attack took place just four days after 70 children and two teachers from a kindergarten in Guangdong were poisoned. The owner of a rival kindergarten has been accused of sprinkling rat poison in the salt used at the school out of jealousy, reports said earlier. In September, 42 people were killed in Nanjing after eating soya products for breakfast which contained rat poison. A rival shop owner was later convicted and executed.