BEIJING: A Shanghai man has suspected of smoking inside a van carrying gas cylinders, causing the van to ignite before it crashed into pedestrians on Friday, injuring 18, police said.
The driver and other 17 people were sent to the hospital with injuries, but no lives were in danger, police said on the micro-blogging site Weibo.
The van caught fire at 8:57 am (0057 GMT) as it was heading east on West Nanjing Road, a major commercial street in downtown Shanghai, police said.
The driver lost control of the van and crashed it onto the footpath near the entrance of a Starbucks coffee shop.
An eyewitness told local newspaper The Paper that the burning van knocked down several pedestrians, while others managed to get out of the way.
The 40-year-old driver is an employee at a Shanghai metal products company, police said. He is suspected of illegally transporting dangerous materials.
Videos on social media showed firefighters putting out the flames inside the van and assisting those injured.
Passers-by tried to break the van’s windshield immediately after the crash, an eyewitness told The Paper.
“The driver might have fainted, and they wanted to break the window to save him,” she said.
Other eyewitnesses said there were six people in the van. A woman taken out of the vehicle had a badly burned face, they said.