What's being reported as a mass chemical attack on children happened Monday afternoon at a school in southwest China. The horrific incident injured fifty-one children and three teachers at a kindergarten in Kaiyuan city, Yunnan province, state media reported Tuesday.
A 23-year old man, now in custody, reportedly scaled a wall to get into the school and then sprayed a corrosive chemical on the students and teachers. Xinhua news described that he used a "caustic soda" — a reference to sodium hydroxide, which is an industrial chemical commonly used in the manufacture of household products.
Xinhua further said at least two of the children are in "serious" condition after exposure to the chemical substance, which can severely burn the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Local police characterized attacker's motive as being driven by "revenge on society".
CNN summarized injuries that can result from sodium hydroxide exposure as follows:
According to the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to caustic soda can irritate or burn the eyes and skin, provoke an allergic reaction, or even cause temporary hair loss.
Police said the suspect was detained about an hour after the attack, whose name was only given as Kong.
Caustic Soda, or Sodium Hydroxide is considered "highly corrosive" to the touch, produces extreme heat when it interacts with water or moisture in the air, and can cause "severe eye, skin, and respiratory tract burns".
Over the past three years there's been a number of strange mass casualty incidents involving adults going on rampages at schools, among the most tragic being a knife-wielding man killing nine students and injuring twelve in 2018. The man was later executed for the heinous attack in the middle school in China's Shaanxi Province.
And in another 2018 attack, a woman stabbed at least 14 children at a kindergarten in the central city of Chongqing. The prior year, in 2017, a man entered a kindergarten and wounded 11 students with a knife.
This latest attack is somewhat unprecedented, however, given the man used a chemical spray on the victims. Police said an investigation is still ongoing, according to local reports.