Planet China

Next stop, meltdown

When Charles Dickens wanted to kill off the character Krook in Bleak House, he opted for spontaneous combustion. Many of his critics thought it far-fetched, although the author believed that it was possible. Unexpected incineration was back on the agenda in Chengdu last month, albeit involving public transport rather than people. The Global Times reports that a woman surnamed Hu was riding a local bus when she noticed a strong burning smell and grew suddenly convinced the “bus was going to spontaneously combust”. So she took an emergency hammer, shattered a window and jumped out of the still-moving vehicle.

Suffering minor injuries, Ms Hu later admitted: “I may have made the wrong call”. The bus driver pulled over when he heard the commotion, although video footage shows the other passengers remaining remarkably calm as Hu smashes the window to escape the imaginary inferno. The bus company’s head of security also seemed sanguine about events, telling the newspaper that passengers have broken windows to escape bus journeys in each of the past three summers. Perhaps passengers are wise to stay alert. As the South China Morning Post reports, fires can happen. Last May a bus exploded into flames in Yibin in Sichuan, killing one and injuring 20.

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