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Shenzhen club fire kills at least 43, injures 88
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Police have detained 13 people in connection with Saturday's nightclub fire that left 43 people dead and 88 injured in south China's Shenzhen city.

Five of the 43 had been confirmed to be from Hongkong, according to the spokesman of the local authorities.

Police said the legal representative of the unlicensed club, Wang Jing, turned herself in on Sunday afternoon after the general manager, vice general manager, safety officer, technician and performers, were detained.

Wang, 41, a native of central Hunan Province, fled after the accident, police said.

Five officials would be punished, including Huang Hai, vice director of Longgang District, and Jiang Wei, head of the fire department of Longgang police bureau, according to the local department. They are also proposed to be deposed by the local government.

The fire broke out at about 10:49 p.m. at the "King of the Dancers" club in Longgang District, when more than 300 people were watching a performance in a hall, district head Zhang Bei said on Sunday.

As of 11 a.m. on Sunday, 59 of the injured, four in critical condition, were being treated in hospital and six others were under medical observation.

An initial investigation by the police showed that fireworks set off during the performance ignited the flammable material in the ceiling. The fire then spread quickly across 150 square meters.

The nightclub had a hall and 10 chambers with a capacity of 380 people. The hall, on the third floor of a marketplace, was accessible from the staircase by only a narrow passageway, about 10 meters long. Several windows were sealed.

"I saw people rushing out at about 11 p.m. and all lights were off," said club employee Yang Zhi. "Many people were hurt in the stampede."

Yang soaked his clothes and ran out, but suffered burns on his neck.

The fire was extinguished that night.

Shenzhen Communist Party of China chief Liu Yupu asked medical staff to do everything possible to save lives and ordered district-wide safety inspections.

An investigation team of officials from the country's work safety watchdog, the Ministry of Public Security, and the provincial and local governments, has been set up.

Another devastating nightclub fire, which occurred on Dec. 25, 2000, in Luoyang City of the central Henan Province, claimed 309 lives.

The blaze started on the second basement floor of a four-story building. The fourth floor housed an unlicensed nightclub.

The dense fumes flooded into the nightclub where hundreds of people were having a Christmas party.

Most of the people died of suffocation due to inadequate fire-fighting facilities and exits. The club had been warned of unqualified fire-fighting system three years before.

This fire is considered to be the second worst in China since 1990. The death toll was second to the 325 killed in a theater fire on Dec. 8, 1994, in Karamay, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Among the dead were 288 schoolchildren, 37 teachers and staff members, and 180 were injured.

The fire started in the Friendship Theater as 796 were watching a performance by students when a spotlight set fire to the curtain. The blaze caused a short-circuit that put out all the lights.

The fiber decoration materials quickly ignited and gave off suffocating toxic fumes.

Seven of the theater's eight emergency exits were locked at the time, and the persons with the keys had left their posts.

The local government said the officials who organized the activity failed to check the safety facilities beforehand or conduct an effective evacuation after the fire broke out.

(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2008)

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