XUZHOU - Chinese authorities on Friday (June 16) investigated an explosion at a kindergarten's gate as a crime after eight died and dozens more were injured in a blast that left victims bleeding and weeping on the ground.
State media posted images of Thursday's blast in eastern Xuzhou city showing victims strewn on the concrete, some with their clothes torn off by the force of the blast while one woman clutched a screaming child.
Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun ordered a "prompt" investigation into the cause and "demanded enhanced checks of possible risks at densely populated venues", Xinhua news agency said.
His deputy was dispatched to the area to conduct the probe. Police have classified the incident in Jiangsu province as a crime and "have targeted the suspect," Xinhua said.
The Global Times and China Youth Daily newspapers cited witnesses as saying that a gas cylinder at a food stall had exploded.
Some people on China's Twitter-like Weibo website said the use of gas canisters by roadside food stalls posed a danger.
"China's small restaurants are landmines, and every mobile street vendor is a moving bomb," one person wrote.
"How can the city management officers allow a vendor to set up a stall at a school entrance with a gas fuel canister?"
A police car blocked access to the kindergarten early Friday, far from the scene of the tragedy as reporters tried to reach the school.
Workers at a nearby hospital declined to confirm if any victims were treated there.
WITNESS HEARS A 'BANG'
At least eight people were killed and 65 injured, including eight seriously, according to Xinhua citing local officials.
Two died at the site of the explosion and six while being treated. Officials did not say if any children were among the dead.
Xinhua reported that children were leaving school when the blast occurred, but the Fengxian county government said that classes was ongoing and teachers and students were not among the casualties.
Pictures of the scene showed more than a dozen people outside a building, many lying on the ground and some appearing to be unconscious, including a small child.
A video posted by the People's Daily showed emergency workers arriving at the scene with gurneys. Another showed people lying in a hospital.
Online media reports cited a business owner near the kindergarten as saying that around 5:00 pm he heard a "bang", and found that there had been an explosion at the kindergarten entrance only 100 metres away.
HISTORY OF ATTACKS
It is the latest tragedy to strike a kindergarten in China in recent weeks.
A school bus packed with kindergarten pupils erupted in flames inside a tunnel in eastern Shandong province on May 9, killing 11 children, a teacher and the driver.
Officials later said the fire was intentionally set by the driver, who was angry at losing overtime wages.
There have also been knife attacks at schools in recent years. In January a man armed with a kitchen knife wounded 11 children at a kindergarten in southern China.
In February last year, a knife-wielding assailant wounded 10 children in a schoolyard in the southern island province of Hainan, before committing suicide.
In 2014, a man stabbed three children and a teacher to death and wounded several others in a rampage at a primary school that refused to enrol his daughter.