Arrests after 29 people die in Beijing hospital blaze
Twelve people have been arrested after at least 29 people died in a fire that ripped through a hospital in China’s capital Beijing.
State broadcaster CCTV reported that a preliminary probe revealed the blaze had been caused by “sparks generated during the internal renovation and construction of the inpatient department of the hospital”.
The sparks “ignited the volatiles of the flammable paint on the site”, CCTV said.
The facility’s director is among those who were arrested.
Beijing Changfeng Hospital is located in the capital’s western urban area, about 25 minutes by car from Tiananmen Square.
Social media users posted videos of people sitting on external air conditioning units, while others clinging to ropes jumped from the building.
The videos could not be independently verified, but AFP has geolocated the building in the footage to the hospital.
Top city officials visited the hospital shortly after the fire, with Beijing party secretary Yin Li vowing to “quickly identify the cause of the accident and hold the relevant responsible persons accountable”, according to the Beijing Daily.
Some of the hospital’s windows appeared blackened and at least one was broken, with soot marks visible on parts of the facade.
It was not immediately clear if all the occupants of the hospital had been found and evacuated from the fire, which was in the east building of the private hospital’s inpatient department.
The deaths were confirmed after the victims were taken to another unidentified hospital for emergency treatment, the Beijing Daily report said.
Many family members have lost contact with patients, with the missing being mostly older people with mobility problems, the China Youth Daily said in a separate report.
Deadly fires are common in China due to weak safety standards and lax enforcement.
Ten people died in an apartment block blaze in northwestern Xinjiang in November, sparking protests against Covid-19 lockdowns blamed for hindering rescue efforts.
The same month 38 people were killed in a fire at a factory in central China, with authorities blaming workers for illegal welding.