11 children die as school bus hurtles into pond

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A MINIVAN taking 15 children to nursery has plunged into a roadside pond in a rural area of eastern China, killing 11 of them.

Three children died at the scene of the accident in Guixi city in Jiangxi province, and a further eight died later in hospital, an official from the city’s Communist Party committee said. The other four survived.

Police detained the driver for questioning and were investigating the cause of the accident, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The minivan belonged to the Chunlei nursery, which doesn’t have a government licence to operate, according to a report by state broadcaster China Central Television.

The van taking the children to school had been travelling too fast and swerved to avoid a vehicle parked on the side of the road, ending up in the pond, it said.

The accident is the latest in a string of deadly crashes in China involving schoolchildren.

Overcrowding on school buses is common in rural China, where the education system is short of funds and children are forced to travel long distances to get an education because of school closures.

Last year, a nine-seat private school van overloaded with 62 kindergarten children and two adults crashed head-on with a truck in rural western China, killing 19 of the children and both adults.

The accident caused public uproar, and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao pledged more support for school bus safety and said central and local governments would bear the cost of bringing often shoddy buses up to standard.

The nursery head, who owned the vehicle, was convicted of a traffic accident crime and sentenced to seven years in prison.