18 injured after 'burning van' crashes into pedestrians in Shanghai

Police believe the accident was caused by the driver smoking while transporting gas tanks

18 injured after 'burning van' crashes into pedestrians in Shanghai

In this image taken from cellphone video provided to the Associated Press, firefighters put out a blaze after a minivan carrying gas tanks plowed into pedestrians along a street in Shanghai. Picture by: AP/Press Association Images

18 people have been hurt after a van drove on to a pavement and hit pedestrians in a busy area of Shanghai.

The vehicle hit people on a road next to People's Square around 9am local time, according to the Chinese government.

Police later said they believed the accident was caused by the driver smoking while transporting gas tanks.

Witnesses quoted by local media said the van was already on fire as it drove on to the pavement and ended up outside a Starbucks cafe.

Bystanders reportedly tried to break the van's windows to pull out six people who were inside.

Government officials said 18 people had been taken to hospital and that three were in a serious condition.

A Starbucks spokesman said its shop was not damaged and that customers and staff were safe.