Workers stand before a police barrier outside Tiananmen rostrum in Beijing on Monday after a jeep crashed into the crowd in Tiananmen Square and burst into flames, killing five and injuring 38, police said. Photo: AFP
Five people were killed and 38 injured after a jeep ploughed through crowds before it crashed and caught fire close to the Tiananmen rostrum in Beijing on Monday, local police said on its official Sina Weibo.
The driver and two passengers in the jeep were killed at the scene and another two tourists, a woman from the Philippines and a man from Guangdong Province in southern China, died of severe injuries, Beijing police said in a posting on its official microblog account.
Another 38 tourists and police officers, including a male and two female Filipinos and one Japanese man were also injured in the incident. The jeep crashed into a railing of the Jinshui Bridge outside the southern gate of the Forbidden City before bursting into flames at 12:05 pm, police said.
Two victims, who had been taken to Beijing Hospital, were still in a serious condition, a hospital staffer told the Global Times, but wished not to be identified.
Motor vehicles were seen returning to Chang'an Avenue, a major thoroughfare in Beijing, after the road was blocked off briefly by the police. Reporters from the Global Times witnessed police patrols at every 50 meters on the avenue.
"The vehicle ran very fast, I could hear people screaming all the way while the vehicle ploughed through the crowds," a female eyewitness at the scene, told the Global Times.
The tourist from Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, who goes by the name of Renqiao1220 on her Sina Weibo account, declined to give her real name to this newspaper but described the scene of the incident in detail.
She said that she suddenly saw a white SUV rushing into a crowd of visitors and then all the way towards the guardrail of Jinshui Bridge before it set aflame. She also said that she saw police cars chasing the SUV before it crashed.
"I heard the car's horn honking, but I noticed it too late. My mind went completely blank and when I woke again I was completely on the ground," the Guangzhou-based Nandu Daily quoted an injured Filipino woman called Francesca as saying.
Late on Monday, the police sent a notice to hotels in Beijing, in which hotel management were asked to look out for "suspicious guests" that had visited hotels since October 1. The police also sought information on "suspicious vehicles."
The police notice said that a "major case had taken place on Monday" and named two residents of Pishan county and Shanshan county of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as likely suspects.
The police also described a light-colored SUV, and four license number plates, all starting with the regional character showing they were from Xinjiang, in the notice.
Zhu Yan, a contact person with the hotel supervision squad in the Beijing Police, told the Global Times that his team did issue the notice to hotels, but said he could not comment on the "major case" itself.
Zhang Siyang and agencies contributed to the story