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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Burning van crashes into pedestrians outside Shanghai Starbucks

At least 18 people were injured in the incident during morning rush hour 

In this image taken from cellphone video provided to the Associated Press, a minivan stands on a pavement in Shanghai after catching fire and ploughing into pedestrians on February 2, 2018. A minivan , sending more than a dozen people to hospitals. AP Photo
In this image taken from cellphone video provided to the Associated Press, a minivan stands on a pavement in Shanghai after catching fire and ploughing into pedestrians on February 2, 2018. A minivan , sending more than a dozen people to hospitals. AP Photo

A burning van ploughed into pedestrians on a crowded pavement in central Shanghai on Friday morning, injuring at least 18 people.

The incident occurred outside a Starbucks at People's Park in the heart of the city during rush hour, when crowds of people would have been on their way to work.

The driver of the van, a 40-year-old man who was among the injured, had been smoking at the wheel which apparently ignited "dangerous substances" inside the vehicle, Shanghai police said.

Zhang Sai, a security guard at an adjacent building, said the van was on fire when it veered out of control and mounted the pavement, striking pedestrians and sending others scurrying to get out of the way.

"It happened around 8.50am. The van was on fire before it crashed on the sidewalk," Mr Zhang said.

Xu Xin, a 23-year-old restaurant employee, came upon the immediate aftermath during his morning jog to find injured people on the ground and bystanders calling emergency services.

Portable gas tanks that are often used to fuel stoves were inside the vehicle, he said.

"The fire department carried gas tanks from the van, like those used in restaurants," Mr Xu said.

The driver seemed unconscious while two other people in the van were badly burned, he added.

The accident site was quickly cleared by authorities.

A small police presence remained on hand. The fencing outside the Starbucks was damaged, but otherwise there was little evidence of an accident.

However, amateur video clips shot earlier and which circulated on Chinese social media showed several people sprawled on the pavement receiving medical treatment from fire and rescue personnel.

Other images showed a fire burning inside the van, which had come to a stop in front of a tree near the entrance to the Starbucks.

The coffee shop was locked up and a notice was taped to the door saying it had been closed, advising customers to go to nearby outlets.

In 2013, two tourists were killed when a car rammed into bystanders on Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square before bursting into flames.

Three attackers also died in the incident, which Beijing blamed on separatists from the restive western region of Xinjiang.