7 Dead, Over 50 Wounded from Series of Explosions in Southern China

A man takes pictures after a series of explosions in Liucheng county, Guangxi. Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters
A man takes pictures after a series of explosions in Liucheng county, Guangxi. Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters

At least seven people died and more than 50 were wounded when a succession of explosions tore through a town in southern China on Wednesday in what the police said appeared to be attacks perpetrated by a local man.

The 17 explosions struck in the afternoon in Liucheng County in the Guangxi region, and the police said the blasts, in 13 sites, appeared to have been caused by explosives left in parcels, Xinhua, the main state news agency, reported. The blasts occurred near a government office in Dapu Township, the county seat, as well as near a marketplace, prison, bus station, hospital and other sites.

In addition to the dead and the 51 injured, two people were missing, the Guangxi police said in a summary of the case issued by the state news media. Other explosions struck nearby Liuzhou City, Xinhua reported, without providing details.

In the evening, the police in Guangxi said they had arrested a suspect, a man from the county, according to Xinhua. The report gave his surname, Wei, and said he was 33, but it offered no other details about his background or possible motives.

“Terrorism has been ruled out,” the police said, the Guangxi Daily newspaper reported online.

Residents of Liucheng County described rising fear as the force of the explosions rippled across the town.

Liang Zuoxi, an auditor for the county, said that he and his co-workers had initially been more curious than alarmed.

“We felt our hearts jump,” Mr. Liang said in a telephone interview. “We thought it was an explosion in the drainage.”

They later heard a larger explosion that appeared to come from close by. “Our leader came down and told the guard at the gate not to accept any parcels, not even ones that we’d ordered, because the Internet was all buzzing about parcels exploding,” Mr. Liang said.

Photographs on Chinese news websites showed a five- or six-story apartment building that had collapsed, apparently from the force of one of the explosions. It was unclear whether there were residents inside. Another photograph showed a plume of dust and smoke, and another a street strewn with rubble.

Some residents received notices from the government warning them not to “open recently arrived packages,” the newspaper China Youth Daily reported online.

Residents reported over 60 packages that aroused suspicions, and the authorities planned to check them, the China News Service, a state news agency, said.

A government worker in Dapu said that she had heard an explosion while in her apartment, but that she did not pay much attention until she went downstairs and was warned by a fruit vendor to leave.

“I feel a bit scared,” said the government worker, who would provide only her surname, Luo. “We’ve never seen anything like this in Liucheng.”

China has experienced other cases of disgruntled men using explosives to seek revenge against relatives, neighbors and officials.

In 2001, the authorities in northwestern China executed a man who was found guilty of killing 47 people by detonating a pile of explosives after long-running disputes with neighbors. That year, over 100 people were killed in a succession of explosions in Shijiazhuang, a city in northern China, that the police said was the work of a resident who said he was taking revenge on his ex-wife and other relatives.

And in 2011, a man in eastern China who was unhappy with compensation for a demolished home set off three explosions in or near government offices, killing himself and two others.

The deadly explosions in Dapu occurred a day before the start of China’s National Day holiday. The Communist Party leadership is nervous about any signs of public discontent, especially violence, and the Ministry of Public Security said that it would send senior investigators to the town.

“Now nobody is going outside,” Mr. Liang, the audit office worker, said from his home. “There are no cars on the street, because the roads have all been sealed around the blast sites.”