updated 11/21/2006 11:13:18 AM ET 2006-11-21T16:13:18

A bus carrying primary school students plunged off a bridge in northeastern China on Tuesday, killing eight of the children and injuring 39, state media said.

The bus was carrying 50 students when it fell off the 20-foot-high bridge about 31 miles from Harbin, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The injured students were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, the report said.

Police said the accident likely occurred because the driver was speeding and the bus, which was licensed to carry only 26 passengers, was overloaded, it said.

The driver has been detained, and preliminary findings showed the owner of the bus was not licensed to operate a school shuttle bus service, it said.

The students were from the Zhoujia town central primary school in the city of Shuangcheng, it said. Chinese children attend primary school between the ages of 6 and 12.

Xinhua cited the Ministry of Public Security as saying that traffic accidents killed 98,738 people in China last year, and 73,955 in the first 10 months of 2006.

China's roads are among the world's most dangerous, with thousands dying each year in accidents caused by reckless driving, poor conditions and overloaded vehicles.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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