Fifteen children were killed when a school bus crashed in China's eastern province of Jiangsu, state media said on Tuesday, the latest in a string of accidents fanning public fury across the country.
The bus rolled into a ditch as it veered off the road to avoid a pedicab, the Xinhua news agency said. At least eight children were injured in the accident, which happened after school on Monday.
Students became trapped at the bottom of the overturned bus and drowned as water gushed into the wreck, Xinhua reported, citing Zhang Bin, a deputy head of the Fengxian county, where the accident happened.
The driver, he said, had been detained.
Xinhua gave conflicting accounts on the number of children on board the bus, but all the reports suggested it was not overloaded. Xinhua last reported that 29 were on board.
An outcry erupted across China in early November after 18 nursery school children were killed when a coal truck slammed into their overcrowded school van in northwestern China.
Two other accidents involving students were reported.
A bus crash in Zhumadian city in central Henan province killed two students on Tuesday and injured 20 people, seven seriously, Xinhua reported.
The bus had been rented by a middle school and was carrying 50 students and teachers when it rammed into a truck.
On Monday, a school bus carrying 59 children collided with a truck in Guangdong Province, in China's far south, injuring 37, media reported.
The deaths and injuries are sure to amplify calls for more spending on education and children's safety. In 1993, the Chinese government vowed to dedicate 4 percent of GDP to education.
Close to 20 years have passed, and this has still not been achieved, said an editorial in the China Information News on Tuesday. For some local governments, the proportion of GDP spent on education has actually fallen.
Chinese microbloggers were quick to express their anger about the Jiangsu crash.
Another school bus accident kills 15 children. It's just a number in the eyes of Chinese officials. The only thing they care about is whether it impacts their future career, wrote Huiji Flying on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog.
Nothing is safe in China apart from leaders' cars, houses, money and concubines, added Yiran Anki.
The November tragedy prompted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to promise more government funds to provide improved school bus services.
Rural areas are notorious for unsafe transport. Children face risky rides in ageing, badly maintained vans and trucks.
The school bus crashes also reflect the growing trend in rural China for schools to be concentrated in larger towns, abandoning villages where the population has been shrinking. Children then have to travel long distances to school or board away from their families.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing, Sabrina Mao, Chris Buckley, Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina; Editing by Ken Wills, John Newland and Ron Popeski)