SAN FRANCISCO — Two elderly Asian women were stabbed without warning as they waited for a bus in downtown San Francisco — the latest in a series of attacks against Asian Americans nationwide since the start of the pandemic last year.

A woman working at a flower stall Tuesday afternoon told KGO-TV that she saw a man walking on Market Street shortly before the attack carrying “a pretty big knife” with knuckles on the handle. “Her back was turned and all I see is feathers came out of her jacket. So I am very sure that she got sliced,” the witness said of one victim. “He walked away like nothing happened, like Sunday morning.”

The 65- and 85-year-old women were taken to a hospital, but no further information was released on their conditions. A 55-year-old San Francisco man was arrested about two hours after the attack. His name was not released. Police said in a statement that investigators have not ruled out the possibility that it was a hate crime, but officers were still gathering details.

The attack highlighted the dangerous climate Asian Americans have faced since the coronavirus entered the U.S. after surfacing in China. Racially motivated harassment and assaults have occurred nationwide.

“These are horrifying, deliberate attacks on Asian residents, often elderly,” said San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the area where the latest attack occurred. “We have to stop this. People need to be able to walk down the street safely and wait for a bus without fear.” Elsewhere, a police hate crime task force in New York City was investigating a recent incident in which a 31-year-old Asian woman and her companion walking in midtown Manhattan were accosted by a woman with a hammer. Surveillance video released by police shows the attacker saying something to the women, hitting one with the hammer and swiping at the other before leaving. Police said the woman who was struck suffered a head laceration and later told police the attacker told her to take off her mask before she was hit. No arrests have been made.

In an incident near Times Square in March, a man was seen kicking and stomping a 65-year-old Filipina woman in front of an apartment building. A parolee who had been convicted of killing his mother two decades ago was arrested.

Another man was arrested last month on hate crimes charges in an attack on a Chinese immigrant in East Harlem. The 61-year-old victim was collecting cans when he was attacked from behind, knocked to the ground and kicked in the head. New York is among several cities where police are beefing up patrols in Chinatown. The San Francisco Bay Area has also seen an increasing number of attacks against Asian Americans.

California prosecutors have filed assault and hate crime charges against a man accused last week of yelling racial slurs before knocking down Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

In separate attacks in San Francisco in March, an 83-year-old Vietnamese man was knocked down and broke his neck, and a 77-year-old woman was attacked. Police arrested a man on suspicion of f assault and elder abuse in both cases. Another 83-year-old man was pushed down in February, broke a hip and spent weeks in a hospital and rehabilitation.

Agencies via Xinhua