updated 12/7/2009 9:35:53 PM ET 2009-12-08T02:35:53

Chinese media say eight students have been killed and 26 others injured in a school stampede in the central province of Hunan.

The reports say the students were charging out of evening study sessions at 9:10 p.m. on Monday night at Xiangxiang city's private Yucai Middle School when students began to fall on top of one another in a stampede on the steps.

Leaders of the city 720 miles south of Beijing immediately removed the head of the education bureau and were questioning school officials as part of the accident investigation, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

Such schools tend to have large class sizes but few emergency exits or other safety features. Evening revision sessions are a standard requirement for advancement in China's grueling exam centered education system.

Such deadly stampedes have occurred repeatedly in China's schools, usually as students are rushing to exams or charging out of class down tight corridors and narrow stairwells.

Monday's incident was among the deadliest since the crushing deaths of 21 children in a northern China middle school in 2002 after a railing collapsed as hundreds of children were funneling down a pitch-dark staircase after evening review classes.

In that case, the school principal and three other people were arrested and charged with gross negligence and other crimes.

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