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Authorities: China Bus Fire That Killed 47 Was Arson-Suicide

Photo taken Friday of the burned-out bus in Xiamen, China, where 47 people were killed in an apparent arson-suicide.
AFP/Getty Images
Photo taken Friday of the burned-out bus in Xiamen, China, where 47 people were killed in an apparent arson-suicide.

Police in China said Saturday that a suicidal man was responsible for a fire that swept through a commuter bus in the country's eastern coastal city of Xiamen, killing 47 people including the arsonist and injuring dozens more.

Authorities say 59-year-old Chen Shuizong left a suicide note at his home before setting the fire aboard the bus during Friday's rush hour. The official Xinhua news agency says he was "unhappy and pessimistic about his life, and planned the arson to vent personal grievances."

Family members were quoted as saying Chen was petitioning the government over the denial of social security benefits.

The Los Angeles Times reports that "shocking footage showed the overcrowded bus engulfed in flames on an overhead roadway in the coastal city, formerly known as Amoy. The fire took place at the height of the evening rush hour and 90 people were on the bus, authorities said. In addition to those killed, 34 were hospitalized, many in critical condition."

By way of background, The Associated Press says:

"China has seen bombings and arsons of buses and public buildings in recent years, by people trying to settle personal scores or having overtly political grievances.

In 2009, an unemployed man set fire to a packed bus in the central city of Chengdu, killing himself and 26 others. In other case, people angry or unhappy with life have used knives or other weapons in attacks on children at schools."

The AP says that in a microblogging account reported to be Chen's he had written of being destitute. In his final entries made the day before the fire, Chen described his frustration at getting local police to correct his official age so that he would be eligible for benefits.

The site has since been removed, the AP reports.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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