AT least 28 people have died in a collision between a methanol tanker and a bus on a motorway in northern China.

The two vehicles caught fire after the collision, which happened at about 2am (0400 EST) on Sunday at Yanan city in Shaanxi province, Xinhua reported.

Emergency services were still verifying the number of casualties, who were mainly in the 39-seat bus, the news agency added.

Three people survived with injuries, and two were taken to hospital. A total of 28 bodies were pulled from the debris.

Details of the crash were still unclear.

Police were investigating the cause of the accident, which happened about 200 metres from a service station on the Baotou-Maoming Expressway, a motorway that runs the length of China from the southern province of Guangdong to Inner Mongolia in the north.

Vehicles carrying explosive materials must first get permission from the police before travelling on the roads in China.

China’s roads are highly dangerous, with traffic laws and safety widely flouted, and truck drivers typically overworked.

Last year more than 62,000 people died in traffic accidents, state media said, citing police figures.