BEIJING — A double-decker bus rammed into a tanker loaded with highly flammable methanol on a northern Chinese highway, causing both vehicles to burst into flames in one of two serious accidents that left 47 dead over the weekend.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 39 people were on the long-distance sleeper bus when it crashed and only three survived. It said the survivors were hospitalized, but didn't describe their condition.

The tanker had just returned to the highway after a rest stop when it was apparently rear-ended by the bus at around 2:40 a.m. close to the city of Yan'an in Shaanxi province, the official China News website said.

The bus had left Hohhot in Inner Mongolia and was headed south to Xi'an city, it said.

Xinhua photos showed the charred metal skeleton of the bus rammed up against the back of the tanker.

An official with the local Communist Party propaganda bureau in Yan'an confirmed that the crash occurred but was unable to give details and was unsure of the death toll.

In the second accident, 11 people were killed and another was seriously hurt when a van crashed into a truck Sunday afternoon in southwest China's Sichuan province, Xinhua reported.

Road safety is a serious problem in China. According to Xinhua, poorly maintained roads and bad driving habits result in about 70,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries a year.

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  • A policeman looks at a burnt-off bus after it collided with a tanker on an expressway in Yan'an in northwest China's Shaanxi province Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. The double-decker sleeper bus rammed into the tanker loaded with highly-flammable methanol on a northern Chinese highway on Sunday, causing both vehicles to burst into flames and killing 36 people, state media said. (AP Photo)

  • Police officer and rescuers inspect the wreckage of a burnt-off bus and a tanker on an expressway in Yan'an in northwest China's Shaanxi province Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. The double-decker sleeper bus rammed into the tanker loaded with highly-flammable methanol on a northern Chinese highway on Sunday, causing both vehicles to burst into flames and killing 36 people, state media said. (AP Photo)

  • In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, the burnt wreckage of a double-decker sleeper bus and a tanker loaded with highly-flammable methanol sit on a highway in Yan'an City, northwest China's Shaanxi province on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. The 39-seat bus rammed into the tanker early Sunday, causing both vehicles to burst into flames and killing 36 people, state media said. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Yibo)