Eight primary school children were killed and 39 injured in a traffic accident in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province on Tuesday, said local traffic police.
The accident occurred at about 6:40 AM in Zhoujia township, Shuangcheng City, 50 kilometers from the provincial capital of Harbin, when a bus carrying 50 students plunged off a six-meter-high bridge.
The police said the students were all from the Zhoujia town central primary school.
The injured, including seven in critical condition, were rushed to a nearby hospital and all except one was out of danger, according to the Harbin city government, which administers Shuangcheng.
However, an earlier press release from the provincial educational commission said nine were seriously injured.
Local government has called in senior pediatricians and surgeons from another hospital for emergency medical treatment.
An initial investigation showed the owner of the bus had no licence to operate a school bus service.
Police have detained Guan Jingquan, the driver. They claimed he was not licensed to drive a bus, holding only a type B driver's license for trucks. Bus drivers require type A licenses.
Overloading and speeding were suspected causes of the accident. Police said the bus, supposed to carry 26 people, carried 52 passengers.
"The bus was going too fast," said third-grader Zhao Wenwen at the No. 242 Hospital in Harbin. Hours after the accident, she was still very shaken.
The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The Harbin city government has launched a city-wide crackdown on unlicensed school buses, overloading and speeding. It is also trying to raise safety awareness among drivers.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, traffic accidents killed 98,738 people in China last year, and 73,955 in the first 10 months of this year.
(Xinhua News Agency November 22, 2006)