15 dead, 20 injured in bar fire in southern China

January 31, 2009 6:18:40 PM PST
Revelers celebrating a birthday set off fireworks inside a bar in southern China, triggering a blaze that killed 15 people and injured 20, state media said. The fire in Changle, a city in the southern province of Fujian, started just before midnight on Saturday, when 10 people lit the fireworks at their table, the Xinhua News Agency said. Fireworks are sold and set off everywhere during Lunar New Year festivities, which lasted all week and ended Saturday. Also known as Spring Festival, it is the country's biggest holiday.

The explosion "set the ceiling on fire and the entire place was soon engulfed in flames," Xinhua said, citing a city government spokesman.

The spokesman said it took 30 minutes to put out the fire and that 35 people were found in the bar. The 15 dead suffocated, he said. Three of the injured were in critical condition, while the other 17 were treated overnight at the Changle City Hospital, he said.

A city government official confirmed the incident owhen telephoned Sunday, but declined to give any other details.

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