Fire in China school dorm kills 13 students


BEIJING: Thirteen people have died in a school dormitory fire in central China’s Henan province, the official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday (Jan 20).

The dead were third graders at an elementary school, according to China Newsweek, a weekly magazine published by China News Service, the second-largest Chinese news agency after Xinhua. Third graders in China are usually 9 years old.

The blaze at the Yingcai School in Henan’s Yanshanpu village was reported to the local fire department at 11pm (1500 GMT) on Friday night, Xinhua said.

Thirteen people have been confirmed dead, the news agency said, adding that one person was injured.

“Rescuers arrived at the scene quickly and the flames were extinguished at 11.38pm,” Xinhua said.

The injured survivor “is currently receiving treatment at the hospital and is in stable condition”, according to Xinhua.

Local authorities are investigating the fire’s cause, and at least one person linked to the school has been detained, Xinhua said.

ONLINE ANGER

Yanshanpu village lies on the outskirts of Nanyang, a city of nearly 10 million.

Little information about the boarding school is publicly available, though social media videos published earlier showed young children including kindergarteners wearing smocks with the school’s logo as well as older children learning calligraphy.

According to The Paper, a Shanghai government-backed news outlet, Yingcai is a private boarding school with a kindergarten and an elementary school.

The school gives students a break every two weeks but this was not a break weekend, The Paper said, citing several local residents. Many of Yingcai’s students are from rural areas.

Chinese social media users on Saturday expressed outrage about the fire and called for any safety lapses to be punished.

“It’s too scary, 13 children from 13 families, all gone in an instant … if there is no severe punishment their souls will not rest in peace,” one commenter on the Weibo social site wrote.

Fires and other deadly accidents are common in China due to lax safety standards and poor enforcement.

In November, 26 people died and dozens were sent to hospital after a fire at a coal company office in northern China’s Shanxi province.

In July, 11 people died after the roof of a school gym collapsed in the country’s northeast.

The month before, an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in northwestern China left 31 dead and prompted official pledges of a nationwide campaign to promote workplace safety.

In April, a hospital fire in Beijing killed 29 people and forced desperate survivors to jump out of windows to escape.

After the coal company fire in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the country to “conduct in-depth investigations of hidden risks in key industries, improve emergency plans and prevention measures”.



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