Rescuers inspect a school bus after it collided with a truck killing 18 children
Rescuers inspect a school bus after it collided with a truck killing 18 children

Twenty people have died, 18 of them children, after a heavily overcrowded nursery school bus crashed into a coal truck in northwest China.

The accident happened at 09:40am on a rural road in Zhengning County in Gansu province. The nine-seater bus was carrying 64 people when it crashed head-on into a lorry on its way to a local kindergarten, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing local authorities.

The driver of the bus and a teacher were also killed in the crash, with a further 44 injured -- 12 of them seriously.

Four of the children died at the scene along with the bus driver, while 15 others died on the way to the hospital. All of the children were aged between five and six years old.

The bus was on its way to the Little Doctor Kindergarten on the outskirts of Qingyang city after picking up the children.

An investigation into the crash has been launched in order to determine whether the driver of the school bus or the lorry is responsible. The driver of the truck has been detained by police, according to the People's Daily.

Such overcrowding on school buses is common in China, and accidents happen frequently because of poorly maintained vehicles and poor driving habits.

State television aired a story in September about a minivan with eight seats that was stopped while carrying 64 pre-school children.

Such overcrowding on school buses is common in China, and accidents happen frequently because of poorly maintained vehicles and poor driving habits.

In December 2010, 14 children died when their school bus plunged into a creek in heavy fog near the central city of Hengyang.

In 2010, Chinese police officially recorded 219,521 traffic accidents, 65,225 of which led to deaths.