Children killed in blaze at China martial arts school

Published June 26, 2021
The authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze, a statement from the Zhecheng county government said. — AFP/File
The authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze, a statement from the Zhecheng county government said. — AFP/File

BEIJING: 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.

Local media reported that most of the victims were boarding pupils aged between seven and 16.

The authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze, a statement from the Zhecheng county government said.

There were 34 boarding students on the premises when the fire broke out, according to government staff quoted by Beijing Toutiao News.

Those hurt — four of whom had severe injuries — were rushed to a local hospital, where an unnamed doctor told local media they were “doing everything they could” to save them.

Manager of the centre arrested; cause of the fire unclear

The unnamed manager of the centre in Henan province had been arrested, the statement said. The cause of the fire is still unclear.

An official said the school was called the Zhenxing Martial Arts Centre.

Local media reports described it as a “comprehensive martial arts training institution” that aimed to “strengthen the body through morality and martial arts”.

An online listing for the school advertised hour-long classes each day for a range of martial arts disciplines and said the school “recruits boarding students year-round”, but offered no further details.

Provincial party chief Lou Yangsheng told local media that the blaze was a “profound lesson”.

The school had not gone through the fire safety auditing process required for martial arts training institutions, as the building had originally been a privately built house intended for other purposes, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Henan is the birthplace of traditional Chinese martial arts and is home to many kung fu academies. Among the largest 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 to call 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 amid patchy enforcement.

More than two dozen people were killed in two blazes in Beijing’s migrant neighbourhoods in 2017.

The first, which killed 19 people in November that year, prompted authorities to begin tearing down unsafe buildings in the capital, driving hundreds of thousands of residents out in the middle of winter.

A huge blaze that swept a 28-storey Shanghai residential block in 2010 killed 58 people.

Friday’s blaze comes at a sensitive time for China’s ruling Communist Party as it ramps up security preparations before its 100th anniversary celebrations on July 1.

Following a spate of deadly mine accidents in the past few weeks, local authorities this month suspended operations at coal mines in Henan, Jiangxi and Hubei provinces in the run-up to the anniversary.

In one week in June alone, more than 30 workers were killed in two separate gas explosions at mines in Henan and Hubei.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

24 Jan, 2022

Anti-extremism policy

HAD there been more far-sighted policymaking on the part of the state and an understanding of how religious ...
Government’s silence
Updated 24 Jan, 2022

Government’s silence

A MAJOR trial is underway in London during which Pakistan has repeatedly been mentioned as the place where payment...
24 Jan, 2022

Cutting mangroves

FOR Karachi, the mangrove cover along its coastline is a thin line of defence against potential oceanic and climatic...
Yemen atrocity
Updated 23 Jan, 2022

Yemen atrocity

The sooner this war is ended, the better, to halt the suffering of Yemen's people and ensure security of all regional states.
23 Jan, 2022

Regressive taxation

THE FBR appears to have kicked up a new and unnecessary controversy by serving notices on currency dealers to ...
23 Jan, 2022

Medico-legal flaws

ON Friday, a 13-page verdict authored by Justice Ali Zia Bajwa of the Lahore High Court revealed a shocking fact...