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Shanghai police seek handbag owner over bus fire
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Shanghai police are looking for the person who allegedly brought a knitted handbag onto a No. 842 bus that may have started a fire that killed three people and injured another 12 on Monday, Beijing News reported today.

The manually stitched bag, which was put two rows behind the driver's seat, suddenly "self-ignited," according to Liu Kai, a passenger on the bus now being treated for burns at Changhai Hospital.

Other passengers have a similar recollection of what happened, but nobody remembered who carried the bag onboard, which was believed to contain flammable items, the report said.

Police are now trying to find the owner of the bag through a name list of passengers, the report said.

The No. 842 bus, carrying about 50 people, caught fire suddenly in Yangpu District near Huangxing and Guoquan roads about 9am on Monday.

The bus was engulfed in flames and reduced to charred wreckage "within several seconds," according to witnesses who escaped the inferno.

Police confirmed the identities of two women killed in the blaze, both Shanghai natives. The third victim, a man, was still unidentified.

Some residents expressed condolences to the deceased by laying flowers at the scene, according to the Shanghai Morning Post.

After a preliminary investigation, police concluded the fire was caused by "combustible oil products," although the nature of the oil hasn't been specified yet.

Police have also kept the driver and conductor of the bus under protection for fear of retribution from the victims' family after some people lambasted them for allegedly abandoning the passengers when the bus caught fire, the report said.

The passengers on the air-conditioned vehicle were unable to open the windows or the second door to escape, said one female conductor on the bus, who added that the emergency hammer to break the glass was stolen, according to the report.

(Shanghai Daily May 7, 2008)

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