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Fire at hospital in Beijing leaves 29 killed

Posted April. 20, 2023 08:07,   

Updated April. 20, 2023 08:07


A fire broke out at a hospital in Beijing, China, leaving 29 people including patients and a nurse dead. The hospital conducted a large-scale fire evacuation drill about a month ago but failed to prevent the fire and responded slowly to the disaster.

According to Chinese news outlets, including the official Xinhua News Agency, the fire broke out at an inpatient ward building at Beijing Changfeng Hospital in Fengtai District in the Chinese capital around 12:57 p.m. on Tuesday. The fire was extinguished by firefighters about 36 minutes later at 1:33 p.m. However, the inferno caused severe damage, killing 26 patients, one nurse, one patient helper, and a patient's family member.

“At the time when the fire broke out, work was underway to renovate the building. Sparks set off fire on paint and other flammable materials before spreading rapidly to cause massive damage,” the Beijing fire department said. The inpatient ward building had many severely ill patients hospitalized at the time of the fire, resulting in a significantly larger number of fatalities.

The hospital’s fire response system has also been revealed to be poor at best. The fire alert system was so sloppy that some patients’ families only learned about the fire from news reports. The hospital conducted a fire evacuation drill early this month and announced the drill on its website. For this reason, critics say “the drill may have been just a formality.” The Chinese police have arrested 12 people, including the hospital’s director and deputy director.

Amid this situation, a flurry of video footages and photos of the fire on the internet and social media channels in China have been removed, sparking controversy over suspected sanctions by the government. Photos that have been removed include images of patients and family members seen standing atop air-conditioner fans on the wall in a desperate bid to escape from the fire. Instead of those images, China’s state outlets have uploaded photos of external walls darkened by smoke, which were taken after the fire had been extinguished.

Ki-Yong Kim kky@donga.com