Investigation under way after China school fire kills 13
AFP | Yanshanpu
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Authorities in central China's Henan Province were on Sunday looking into the cause of a night-time fire that killed 13 schoolchildren as they slept in a dormitory.
The inferno, which took place at the Yingcai School in Yanshanpu village, was reported to the local fire department at 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday and was put out around 40 minutes later, official news agency Xinhua said.
Thirteen students died in the accident, while one other person suffered injuries.
Dozens of police were in and around a cordoned-off area near the school on Sunday, AFP journalists saw.
An official at the scene told AFP: "There is an investigation ongoing inside. Nobody can go in."
Several windows on the side of the school were broken -- the only obvious signs of a major accident at the building.
Vertical metal bars covered the school's windows, AFP saw, while a permanent sign on the building's facade read: "Enter the kindergarten happily and go home happily."
In a video shared Sunday on Chinese social media site Weibo, a man surnamed Fan -- the father of a boy who died in the fire -- said that blood samples had been taken from parents to compare their DNA with the victims.
"We parents haven't seen our kids yet... We can only see them when the results are available," said Fan.
"My kid has been studying very hard," he added.
"I can't accept it."
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.
A teacher at the school told state-run Hebei Daily that all the victims were from the same third-grade class of nine and 10-year-olds.
- 'Rapid response' -
On Sunday morning, a row of shops next to the school stood mostly shuttered, while a small clinic in a crumbling courtyard building appeared unattended.
A few locals went about their day and a couple of children played as police cars made loops around the cordoned-off area.
Some people passing by Sunday morning stared at the scene, and one man at an auto workshop across the street told AFP that he had been unaware of the fire until the following morning.
Authorities in the area are investigating the fire's cause, and at least one person linked to the school has been detained, Xinhua reported Saturday.
No official explanation of the precise cause of the deadly blaze has yet been provided, although some domestic media reports suggested it was related to an electric heating device.
Yanshanpu village lies on the outskirts of Nanyang, a city of nearly 10 million people about 850 kilometres west of Shanghai.
Nanyang Radio and Television reported Sunday that local officials had held a meeting on Saturday to discuss follow-up work for the deadly fire and improving safety measures in the future.
"Life is above all else and a rapid response is necessary," a readout of the meeting published by Nanyang Radio and Television said.
"Do a good job in dealing with the aftermath, put oneself in the others' shoes, be compassionate, patient and meticulous in giving emotional comfort to families of the victims, lawfully compensate them, and provide relief for those in need," read the report.
The reason for the fire must be "quickly identified", it said, adding that "relevant duties will be strictly investigated in accordance with the law".
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.
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.