Hotel fire in northeast China kills 10, injures 35

May 1, 2011 5:02:45 AM PDT
A fire at a hotel in northeastern China killed 10 people and injured 35 others Sunday, while lightning sparked several forest fires in another part of the country, a state news agency said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the fire at a hotel in Tonghua city in Jilin province was put out after half an hour. It did not say what caused the blaze.

The hotel is owned by the Nasdaq-listed Chinese budget hotel chain Home Inns & Hotels Management Inc., the largest economy hotel operator in the country.

A staffer at the Tonghua city government's office for emergencies confirmed the number of casualties but said he had no other details. He refused to give his name, as is common with Chinese officials.

The injured, three of whom were seriously hurt, were sent to a hospital for treatment and firefighters were combing the site, Xinhua said.

State broadcaster CCTV said 150 people were evacuated from the seven-story building and about 140 firefighters were deployed to the site.

Xinhua said there was a karaoke bar and a restaurant on the first and second floors of the building, and that the Home Inns hotel was in the floors above.

The fire started on the first floor in a stairwell and spread to the second and third floors, covering an area of about 3,200 square feet (300 square meters) and sending dense smoke up to the higher floors, CCTV said.

The 10 who died were mostly on the fifth and seventh floors, and had choked to death, Xinhua said.

Xinhua quoted the deputy president of the Tonghua City People's Hospital, where the injured were taken, as saying that most suffered dizziness, nausea and sore throats.

"We sucked out a lot of soot from the respiratory tract of a seriously injured child," the report quoted Qiao Shuping as saying.

According to Home Inns' website, the company operated 818 hotels as of the end of last year.

Building fires are common in China because of lax safety codes and unsafe construction work. In November, 58 people were killed in a Shanghai apartment fire that was blamed on welders ignoring safety precautions. Last week, an illegal garment shop in southern Beijing caught fire, killing 17 people.

Also Sunday, thousands of firefighters in northern Shanxi province were trying to extinguish more than 10 fires in a forest bordering the cities of Jingzhong and Yangquan, Xinhua said. The blazes were sparked by lightning, it said.

A staffer surnamed Li at the Shanxi provincial forest fire prevention headquarters said the fires were "under control" but not extinguished, and that no casualties had been reported.