Beijing, Oct 3: A suspended bus company manager may have sparked a fierce bus blaze that killed 27 and put another 11 passengers in hospital, the official Xinhua agency said late.
The bus, with 38 people on board, was heading downtown when the fire erupted just after 1700 hrs local time.
The flames appeared to start from several big bags held by Xiao Yonghua, an employee of the firm that owned the bus, and his wife, the report quoted bus driver Chen Jun saying.
The pair, who died in the blaze, were sitting at the front of the bus, so the flames soon blocked the exit. Commuter Zhang Dazhong said he had to jump out of the window to survive.
Until September 20, Xiao had been deputy manager of the company that owned the bus. He was suspended from his post because of family disputes, and was unhappy with the punishment, the company said.
The driver, who was slightly injured, has been detained by police. Other survivors of the blaze, which rescuers said was ''fierce'', were rushed to a nearby hospital, while two vice-mayors visited the site of the accident, Xinhua added.
Many buses in the area run on natural gas rather than gasoline or diesel, providing an explosive fuel for any fire that penetrates the tanks holding it.
The accident happened almost exactly a year after a bus plunged over 30 metres from a bridge in downtown Chongqing, killing 30 and injuring 20 passengers on board.