SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Eighteen people were injured on Friday when a minivan caught fire and mounted the pavement in a busy part of central Shanghai and ploughed into pedestrians, said police.
Investigations showed the fire was caused by a 40-year-old driver who was smoking a cigarette inside the vehicle while illegally transporting highly flammable substances, the Shanghai public security bureau said on its official Weibo feed.
GRAPHIC - Map locating van crash in Shanghai: here
Police released surveillance images showing the minivan veering sharply across the wrong side of traffic toward a large crowd of pedestrians waiting at a crossing, flames billowing in the back of the vehicle.
Another image appeared to show the driver smoking a cigarette inside his vehicle before the accident.
The drive, who was receiving treatment in hospital, is suspected of running an illegal business transporting liquefied petroleum gas canisters, police said, adding that he is suspected of culpable driving causing serious damage or injury.
Police said several gas canisters were retrieved from the burnt out vehicle, along with large plastic containers that had contained petrol.
The Shanghai government said in a short statement that the vehicle hit the pedestrians on a road running next to People’s Square, injuring 18, three of them seriously. The car came to a stop in front of a Starbucks outlet.
Two of those seriously injured had their conditions subsequently downgraded, police said.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Philip Wen and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Michael Perry