3 killed after driver ploughs through busy town square in central China

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A vehicle has plowed into people at a busy square in southern China, killing at least 9 people and injuring almost 50 others, local officials say.

The incident took place shortly after 7:30pm local time Wednesday in Hengyang city in Hunan province.

Videos and photos circulated on social media purportedly show large crowds of up to several hundred people running frantically from the square in different directions, amid bodies laying scattered on the ground.

Three people have been so far been declared dead and 43 injured but the death toll is expected to grow, with some local newspapers already speaking of nine victims.

Police have reportedly named the suspect as a 54-year-old man, Yang Zanyun.

The Hengyang city government said the suspect in the case had previous convictions for crimes including drug trafficking, theft and assault and, acting alone, had sought to "get revenge on society".

Local government officials said the the driver had a criminal record and he was detained at the scene. No other motive has been offered.

China has witnessed several mass casualty attacks in recent years including an apparent terrorist attack at the Kunming train station on March 1, 2014 in which 31 civilians were killed and over 140 were injured in a mass stabbing attack perpetrated by six men and two women believed to be Xinjiang separatists.

Officials said in the hours after the attack that nine people had been killed. Police blamed the attack on Uighur extremists inspired by jihadi ideology.

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