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Chinese police arrest suspect in bank fire that injures 49

By Steven Jiang, CNN
  • Police catch disgruntled former bank employee
  • Official: He allegedly threw lighted bottle of gas into a conference room during a meeting
  • The suspect was fired last month for allegedly embezzling public funds
  • China

Beijing (CNN) -- After an eight-hour pursuit, police in northwestern China have caught a disgruntled former employee who allegedly threw an ignited bottle of gasoline into a rural bank Friday morning, injuring 49 people, local officials said.

Thirty-nine-year-old Yang Xianwen tossed the bottle into a conference room around 8 a.m. during a staff meeting at the local branch of Gansu Rural Credit Union, a Tianzhu county government official said. Yang, who was fired last month for allegedly embezzling public funds, fled the scene.

Witnesses described a "horrifying" aftermath to the official Xinhua news agency, as some people tried to escape the big fire by jumping out of the fifth-floor room's windows to the rooftop of a nearby three-story building.

Xinhua had earlier reported a petro bomb blast at the bank caused "a significant number" of deaths and injuries. Officials later clarified the casualty figure, adding all patients -- including 19 severely injured -- were being treated at a local hospital.

Photos from the scene show police cordoning off the street and emergency responders carrying out the injured on stretchers. The fire was extinguished within half an hour, authorities said.

Tianzhu county is some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) west of Beijing, and a third of its 220,000 residents are Tibetans.

A disgruntled businessman, Liu Zhuiheng, set off a home-made bomb last July at a local tax bureau in Hunan province in southern China, killing four people and injuring 20 others.

He was sentenced to death last December.