BEIJING — Five people were killed and 38 were injured Monday when a speeding vehicle careered along a crowded sidewalk in the ceremonial heart of the Chinese capital and burst into flames at the entrance to the Forbidden City.
Three of the dead were the driver and the two passengers riding in the car, and the other two were pedestrians — a Filipino woman and a man from Guangdong province in southern China — according to the authorities. They quickly sealed the area around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, which is normally packed with tourists.
Hypersensitive to any unscripted news happening in the center of Beijing, the government sought to restrict coverage of the episode and promptly deleted witness photographs and related postings on social media. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declined to respond to a question about whether the episode had been a terrorist attack.
But witness accounts suggested the driver had deliberately steered the vehicle more than 400 yards along the sidewalk and had rammed into a marble railing of the Jinshui Bridge, built to traverse the moat that encircles the vast imperial residence that served generations of Chinese rulers.
The episode occurred shortly after noon, when the sport utility vehicle made a sharp turn onto the sidewalk and raced toward the southern entrance to the Forbidden City.
Police immediately closed a busy subway station, shooed away tourists and detained several foreign journalists, including two reporters for Agence France-Presse, who were forced to delete images from their cameras.
Armored vehicles and paramilitary police officers swarmed the area. Witnesses said municipal workers had arrived quickly with long-handled brushes to wash away the pools of blood.