Five killed in Tiananmen car crash
A SPORT utility vehicle crashed into a crowd in Beijing's Tiananmen Square yesterday and burst into flames, killing five people and sending a tower of smoke billowing near a giant portrait of Mao Zedong.
Immediately after the incident, in which 38 people were also injured, a security operation went into effect at the vast square next to the Forbidden City, where pro-democracy protests in 1989 were brutally crushed by the authorities.
"I saw a car round a bend and, suddenly, it was driving on the pavement. It happened fast, but looks like (the car) knocked people down," one eyewitness, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
"I heard an explosion and saw fire. The scene was very frightening," he added. "There were paramilitary police (officers) who told people to get back into their cars and stop taking pictures."
Several pictures posted online were deleted within minutes, streets leading to the square were blocked and screens were erected. Two AFP reporters were temporarily detained close to the site, with images deleted from their digital equipment.
"A jeep crashed into the guardrail on Jinshui Bridge, then caught fire," the Beijing police said on their verified social-media account. The Jinshui Bridge spans the moat around the Forbidden City.
"It is confirmed that the jeep driver and the two other people in the car are dead," the statement said, adding that the fire had been put out.
In addition to the people in the vehicle, two tourists were killed: a woman from the Philippines and a Chinese man.