China bus arson
Police officials have held a person suspected of starting the bus fire in Ningxia provinceREUTERS/Stringer

A man suspected of setting fire to a public bus in the Chinese province of Ningxia on 5 January has reportedly been apprehended. The fire had killed 17 people and injured 32 others.

Officials reported that the crowded bus caught fire suddenly, trapping a number of people inside. Fire fighters were able to put out the blaze in 20 minutes and those injured were rushed to a nearby hospital. The incident occurred at 7am local time

Police officials had suspected the fire to be a case of arson and were on the hunt for a 34-year-old man named Ma Yongping in relation to a "major crime", Chinese state broadcaster CCTV had reported earlier. Authorities have now confirmed that they have arrested the arson suspect.

According to the South China Morning Post, a woman who works in the area said, "By the time I came into work there was nothing left but a metal bus frame, but my colleague who witnessed the incident said the bus caught fire after arriving at a bus station.

"People were trying to run away from the bus and several bodies were seen lying outside it with their clothes all burned.

"It was horrific. I'm scared now that travelling by bus has become dangerous."

This is not the first such case reported from China. In June 2013, in a bid to commit suicide, a man set a bus in northern China on fire, in which 48 people died. In 2014, a 35-year old man suffering from a relapse of tuberculosis set fire to a bus in Hangzhou city, injuring 33 people. He was executed in 2015.