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NE China Hospital Fire Kills 39

The death toll from Thursday afternoon's hospital fire in Liaoyuan City in northeast China's Jilin Province has risen to 39, according to the local government on Friday morning.


Rescuers have so far found the remains of 24 people. A further 15 others died after emergency treatment failed, the official said.


All the victims were in-patients of the City Central Hospital, where the fire broke out at about 4:30 PM Thursday afternoon. The time of the fire was previously reported as 5:00 PM.


The hospital registered a total of 245 in-patients before the fire broke out, and 152 have been rescued and transferred to other hospitals in the city and in the nearby county of Tongliao, sources with the hospital said.


Some of the people in the hospital had run away by themselves, said one rescuer.


Witnesses said the fire raged through four four-storied buildings, which are conjoined to form a square, in the largest hospital of Liaoyuan City, about 120 km southwest of Changchun, capital of Jilin Province.


The first and second floor of the buildings are the outpatient department, and the third and fourth floor are the in-patient department.


Initial investigations have shown that the fire started from the power distribution room.


"I saw people jumping out of the window and many of them got injured. I'm sorry I could not do anything to help," one witness told Xinhua.


Thousands of residents nearby witnessed the tragedy. Many of them who were anxious but unable to do anything to help were in tears as they watched rescuers searching for survivors.


More than 10 fire engines and ambulances were rushed to the scene, and fire engines from neighboring cities like Changchun and Siping and Yitong County were also deployed.


The fire was put out at 10:00 PM Thursday night. Some 5,000 square meters of hospital building and grounds have been destroyed.


Across from the hospital, anxious relatives awaited news of their loved ones.


Search and rescue operations continue.


Earlier on Thursday, the Ministry of Public Security said that from January to November, a total of 222,000 fires were reported in China, which left 2,048 people dead and 2,080 others injured, with direct economic losses of 1.23 billion yuan (US$152 million).


However, the figures represented a drop of 5.4 percent, 11.3 percent, 26 percent and 10.2 percent respectively, from the same period last year.




(Xinhua News Agency December 16, 2005)


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