11 children, several South Korean, die in bus crash in China

Weihai, in China's Shandong province

BEIJING (Reuters) - Eleven young children - five South Korean and six Chinese - were killed along with their driver when their bus crashed and burst in to flames in a tunnel in China’s eastern Shandong province on Tuesday, the local government said.

The bus had been transporting the children, all aged between three and six years old, to an international kindergarten in Weihai, a city across the Yellow Sea from South Korea, the local government said on its official Weibo account, a Chinese equivalent to Twitter.

A teacher also suffered severe injuries.

Grainy footage from the accident site that was posted Chinese social media showed flames leaping from the sides of a tall vehicle, while local media published photographs of black smoke billowing out of the tunnel’s entrance.

Reuters could not independently verify the accuracy of the images or videos.

The South Korean Consulate in the Shandong provincial capital of Qinghao had earlier said that ten South Korean died in the accident. Consular officers had been sent to the site, it said.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, reported that one of the Chinese victims had a South Korean identity card.

Beijing does not release statistics on the total number of accidents each year, but the World Health Organization estimated in 2013 that around 250,000 people were killed on China’s roads that year.

Beijing has vowed to clamp down on dangerous driving, but the rapid growth in car ownership and relatively lax checks on driving ability have made difficult to curb the number of accidents, especially on rural roads.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore