At least 15 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 traffic accidents that has triggered public fury across the country.
The bus fell into a ditch as it veered off the road to avoid a pedicab, the official Xinhua news agency said. At least eight children were injured in the accident, which happened after school on Monday.
Xinhua had conflicting accounts on the number of children on board the bus but all reports suggested the bus 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.
The latest crash is sure to amplify public 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 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 in China in particular are known for unsafe transport for children in aging, badly maintained vans and trucks.
The school bus crashes also reflects the growing trend in rural China for schools to concentrate in larger towns, abandoning villages where the population has been shrinking, meaning that many children have to travel long distances to school or board away from their families.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing, Sabrina Mao, Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills and Nick Macfire)