Probe under way after Beijing hospital fire kills 21
BEIJING, China: An investigation was under way Wednesday after a fire ripped through a hospital in China’s capital Beijing, killing 21 people, state media reported.
Emergency response teams first received word just before 1 pm (0500 GMT) Tuesday that a fire had broken out at the Beijing Changfeng Hospital in the capital city’s Fengtai District, the Communist Party-run Beijing Daily said.
The fire was extinguished about half an hour later and rescue efforts continued for another two hours, by which time 71 patients had been evacuated.
Social media users posted videos on Tuesday 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.
The death toll stood at 21 as of Wednesday morning, the newspaper said.
No further details were available on the number of injuries suffered in the fire or the condition of the victims.
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.
AFP journalists on Wednesday saw dozens of onlookers outside the entrance to the hospital, where a large number of police officers were stationed, discouraging people from taking photos.
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 on Wednesday.
A police officer on the scene on Wednesday told AFP the city “will probably make the appropriate arrangements” to take care of victims’ relatives.
Beijing Changfeng Hospital is located in the capital’s western urban area, about 25 minutes by car from Tiananmen Square.
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.
And 38 people were killed in a fire at a factory in central China, also in November, with authorities blaming workers for illegal welding.