Smoking Driver Hits Crowd In Shanghai After Accidentally Igniting Van

A van ran into a crowd of pedestrians in Shanghai on Friday morning, injuring more than a dozen people, according to local media reports. 

The accident was caused by the van’s driver, who unintentionally set the inside of the vehicle on fire while smoking, according to the state-run People’s Daily. The news site noted that the driver was suspected of illegally moving hazardous goods.

17 pedestrians were hospitalized after the incident, which occurred in the city’s Huangpu District, according to Chinese state broadcaster CGTN. 

Reports say the van was driving toward a Starbucks on Nanjing Road West about 9 a.m. before it came to a stop at the coffee chain’s entrance after hitting several people. The storefront is near the People’s Park, which is in the center of the city, according to The New York Times.

A Starbucks spokeswoman told HuffPost that no one inside the coffee shop was injured and the location was not damaged by the vehicle. The store will remain closed while authorities investigate.

“We were saddened to hear about the accident that took place outside of our Store on Nanjing Road,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Our heartfelt thoughts go out to those who were injured as a result of this incident. We are grateful no partners (employees) or store customers were injured and are focused on supporting them during this time.”

A local media outlet called The Paper initially reported that several people were inside the van and that it held several canisters of gas. But the article was removed and later replaced by a statement from the Shanghai government, possibly a signal that China’s media censors ordered it taken down, Reuters reported.

Graphic video of the scene was shared on social media, showing several people lying on the ground and the vehicle in flames as firefighters worked to quell the blaze.

This article has been updated with response from Starbucks.

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