Chinese martial arts school fire 18 dead
At least 18 people were killed and 16 injured when a fire broke out at a martial arts school in central China in the early hours of Friday, according to the local government.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that all of the victims were boarders, while local media said they were between the ages of seven and 16.
The blaze had been extinguished and authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze, a statement from the Zhecheng County government in Henan Province said.
Four local officials, including the county party secretary, were fired over the incident, Henan Daily, a state-backed local newspaper reported on Saturday.
Two other suspects were arrested in addition to school principal Chen Lin, the Henan Daily reported.
There were 34 boarding students at the scene when the fire broke out, according to government staff quoted by Beijing Toutiao News.
The injured – including four seriously injured – were rushed to a local hospital, where an anonymous doctor told local media they were “doing everything they could” to save them.
The cause of the fire was still unclear.
An official confirmed to AFP that the school was the Zhenxing Martial Arts Center.
Local media described it as a “comprehensive martial arts training institution” which aimed to “strengthen the body through morality and martial arts”.
An online list of the school advertised hour-long lessons each day for a range of martial arts disciplines and said the school “was recruiting boarding students year round”, but did not provided no further details.
Provincial party leader Lou Yangsheng told local media that the fire was a “profound lesson.”
The school had not undergone the fire safety audit process required for martial arts training institutions because the building was originally a private construction house for other purposes, Xinhua reported on Friday. .
– Cradle of kung fu –
Henan is the cradle of traditional Chinese martial arts and is home to many kung fu academies.
Among the most important is the famous Shaolin Martial Arts School, which has hundreds of teachers and tens of thousands of students, according to its website.
Social media users started calling for better fire safety standards online, as a hashtag for the fire quickly garnered over 1.5 million views.
Fatal fires are common in China, with safety regulations often flouted and patchy enforcement.
More than two dozen people were killed in two fires in Beijing’s migrant neighborhoods in 2017.