China school stampede kills eight, injures 26

BEIJING Mon Dec 7, 2009 10:29pm EST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Eight children died and 26 were injured in a stampede in a school stairwell in central China, local media reported on Tuesday.

Students at the Yucai Middle School in Hunan province were leaving their classrooms after evening study on Monday when one tripped, setting off a deadly crush, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Students at the school in Xiangxiang city were crowding the stairs, reluctant to step into heavy rain outside, state radio news reported.

Officials there told Xinhua the dead included 7 boys and a girl aged from 11 to 14. Of the 26 injured, 5 were seriously hurt, said the report.

Thousands of people die in work, traffic and school accidents across China every year. But in a country where the government enforces a one-child policy in cities, the deaths of children can unleash especially volatile anger, often directed at officials.

Officials in Xiangxiang sought to quickly head off parental anger, launching an investigation and dismissing the head of the city education bureau, Xinhua reported.

While such accidents are often associated with poverty, the Yucai middle school is privately owned and has 3,500 students, Xinhua reported.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills)

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