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Cyber Cafe Fire Still Under Scrutiny
Local police were still identifying the victims killed in a cyber cafe fire early Sunday morning, most of whom were believed to be college students from nearby universities.

The fire ravaged the Lanjisu Internet Cafe, killing 24 people and injuring 13.

All but one of the injured were in stable condition, official sources said.

Most of the victims suffered smoke inhalation as well as serious burns, mainly to their faces, necks and limbs, over 30 to 40 percent of the total skin area, police and hospital sources said.

The operator of the cafe, Zheng Wenjing, has been questioned by public security authorities, police sources said.

The 36-year Zheng opened the cafe in late May without a license.

The cause of the fatal blaze was still under investigation, according to police.

Drawing an instant lesson from the fire, authorities in other places such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have decided to strengthen supervision of Internet cafes as well as other public entertainment centers.

The capital has launched a three-month work safety overhaul on Internet cafes, dancing halls, barber shops, beauty saloons and public bathrooms.

Places found to have hidden safety perils will be shut down.

Business in the city's 2,400 Internet cafes has been suspended for safety examinations by the authorities in charge of culture, public security, industry and business, telecommunications and commerce.

In Shanghai, cultural administration authorities issued an urgent announcement yesterday, ready to kick off an in-depth work safety examination on public entertainment centers as well as ban illegal cyber cafes or those failing to meet safety requirements.

Authorities in Guangzhou launched an overnight safety overhaul and urged Internet cafes that fail to meet anti-fire requirements to shut down for rectification, reported the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily. There are about 1,000 illegal cyber cafes in Guangzhou, the newspaper reported.

W. K. Lam, secretary for HKSAR Home Affairs Bureau, said on Sunday Hong Kong will add rules to prohibit the entry of youngsters under 16 into cyber cafes as well as to forbid the cafes opening all night, reported Xinhua.

The Beijing Science and Technology University is screening its students to ascertain how many of its students were killed in the blaze, said a teacher with the university surnamed Zhang.

Earlier reports said many of the victims were from the school, with even nine of them reportedly from the same class, but they could not be independently confirmed. Witnesses said that the only door of the cafe was locked and windows barred when the flames occurred, blocking the exit of the victims.

(China Daily June 18, 2002)

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