Chinese authorities said they have arrested a dozen people in connection with a hospital fire in Beijing that has claimed the lives of at least 29 victims, attributing the blaze to possible negligence after sparks from internal construction ignited flammable paint.
At a news conference on Wednesday, officials said most of the deceased were patients at Changfeng Hospital when the fire erupted around midday Tuesday in the southwestern part of Beijing. A nurse, a medical worker and a relative of a patient also died in the fire. Another 21 people were hospitalized in critical or serious condition.
The fire appears to be the deadliest in the Chinese capital in two decades. Government censors sought to quell public anger by restricting information on the internet in the initial hours after the fire. On Wednesday morning, the censors appeared to relax as online conversation about the blaze suddenly soared to the top of trending topics on Chinese social media platforms.
Local officials apologized for the fire and said they would learn from the tragedy.
“We feel deeply responsible and guilty,” said Li Zongrong, deputy head of Beijing’s Fengtai district, the area where the hospital is. “I would like to express our deep condolences to the victims, sincere greetings to the families of the victims, the injured and their relatives, and apologies to the people of the city.”
A Beijing public security official said they had arrested 12 people, including the hospital’s president and vice president, as well as the head of the construction company overseeing the work at the hospital. They were being investigated for possible violations of safety management regulations that resulted in a major incident with serious casualties, the official said.
Officials said the fire broke out in the hospital’s east building, which mainly treats critically ill patients. The average age of the hospital patients who died in the fire was 71.
This is a developing story.