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13 held for club fire that killed 43
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Thirteen people in Shenzhen have been detained in connection with a nightclub fire on Saturday that killed 43 people and injured 65.

Wang Jing, owner of the club who could not be traced after the fire, surrendered to police yesterday afternoon. The general manager, deputy general manager, safety officer, technician and performers had been detained earlier.

Hundreds of people, most of them youths, had packed into the Wu Wang Club, popular as "King of the Dancers Club", in the city's Longgang district when the fire broke out around 11 pm.

"We were watching a show and one of the performers lighted a firework, which rose to the ceiling that caught fire. The fire spread rapidly across the hall, and turned into the worst fire tragedy in the southern city," a survivor surnamed Zheng said.

"Power supply to the hall was cut immediately, leaving the room in darkness, except for the light from the blaze. I heard people shouting and crying. Everybody dashed for the only exit. I don't know how I managed to get out. I felt like I was running on people's body but I couldn't see," the youth said.

The nightclub, about 35 km from downtown, had a hall and 10 rooms that could hold 380 people. It was on the third floor of a second-hand goods' market, and could be accessed from the staircase only through a narrow passageway, about 10 m long.

The Ministry of Culture said Wang Jing founded the club in 1998, but its entertainment license was not renewed after it failed to submit all the required materials two years ago.

Sources close to the club said it was moved to its present location about a year ago to target medium- and high-end customers.

Club employee Yang Zhi said yesterday: "I saw people running. All the lights had gone off. Many people were injured in the stampede."

Sixteen of the 43 people who died were women, two of them from Hong Kong.

Fifty-nine of the injured, four in serious condition, are getting treatment in hospitals, Zhang Bei, director of Longgang district, said. The other six are under medical observation.

The district government's supervision and inspection has been loose and law enforcement inefficient, Zhang said. Mourning the dead and sympathizing with the injured, he apologized to their families.

Special teams, led by senior officials including Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang, have been set up to provide proper medical treatment to the injured and work out a compensation package for the victims.

The Ministry of Culture has issued an urgent notice, saying all cultural and entertainment venues across the country should be checked thoroughly to make them free of potential problems that could threaten public safety.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, September 22, 2008)

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