The police said the van caught fire at 8.57 a.m. (0057 GMT) as it was heading east on West Nanjing Road, a major commercial street in downtown Shanghai. "The van was on fire before it crashed on the sidewalk", Zhang said. The storefront is near the People's Park, which is in the center of the city, according to The New York Times. Firefighters were later seen trying to put out a blaze inside the vehicle.
Local media is reporting the van was carrying gas canisters.
The van was reportedly carrying six passengers and multiple gas tanks. "The fire department carried gas tanks from the van, like those used in restaurants", Mr Xu said, adding that the driver seemed unconscious while two other people in the van were badly burnt.
Police blamed the driver for accidentally igniting "dangerous substances" in the vehicle as he was smoking. Nine people were still being treated there on Friday night with one person, the driver, in critical condition, police said.
They do not believe the crash was an act of terrorism. Vehicle attacks by extremists have killed scores globally in recent years, including some in Chinese cities.
The incident came ten minutes before Theresa May was due to address a packed business forum in the city.
Mrs May was in China's commercial centre on the final leg of her three-day trip to the country which aims to improve trade relations. During the weeks-long period, authorities emphasize safety on the road and aboard planes, trains and ferries.
Post the incident, the Chinese government also confirmed the fire and said that the flames had been extinguished.
Shih reported from Beijing.
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