A man, whose identity remains unknown, died after setting himself ablaze in Shanghai's historic riverside Bund area at around 11 a.m. on Thursday, local police and witnesses said.
The man reportedly poured gas over himself to spark the blaze on a square named after Chen Yi, a late marshal of the Chinese People's Liberation Army beside the Huangpu River.
"I didn't see how it started, but suddenly spotted a flame that was moving about near Chen Yi's statue," said a witness on condition of anonymity. "It was a horrible scene."
Fire fighters were sent in immediately and the blaze was put out in about 5 minutes, he said. "An electric bike was also burned-- I guess it belonged to that man."
The square was packed with people when the self-immolation occurred, but nobody realized what was going on until it was too late. No one at the site saw what the man looked like or how old he was.
When Xinhua reporters arrived at the site in the early afternoon, the corpse had been removed by police and the ground washed, but the air still smelt of gasoline.
Shanghai police said they were investigating the identity of the man and the cause of the suicide.
The Bund is a big draw for tourists as well as Shanghai residents.
(Xinhua News Agency September 12, 2008)