|Yuan Xiaoshi, 10, a survivor of the fire that broke out at an unlicensed orphanage in Henan province on Friday, is still in a critical condition at a hospital in Kaifeng. (Source: China Daily/ Xiang Mingchao)|
BEIJING, Jan. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Calls for greater State role after the fire that claimed 7 lives, report Xiang Mingchao in Henan, He Na, Peng Yining and Cui Jia in Beijing.
Although four days have passed since the fire that claimed seven lives at a private orphanage in Lankao county, Henan province, the two-story apartment, its blackened walls clearly visible, is still filled with the stench of smoke and burning.
The windows are shattered and the water used to extinguish the blaze is now just a sheet of ice covering a section of the floor. Except for one ruined electric fan, it's difficult to identify the fire-damaged objects scattered around the room.
The blaze that engulfed the house on the morning of Jan 4 killed six children and one adult. A seventh child was severely injured and is currently being treated in a hospital. The children who died were all younger than 6 years old. The youngest was just 6 months old.
The cause of the fire has yet to be established and the investigation is ongoing, according to local government sources.
"From the moment I ran to help put out the fire until the moment the ambulance arrived, I didn't hear any of them cry out," said Li Qinghua, who owns a small electrical appliance store and lives not far from the scene of the tragedy.
"Those children's lives were pitiful. They had already escaped death once after being abandoned by their parents, but destiny was still cruel and they still couldn't escape death," said Li tearfully.
Clothing and quilts, badly burned and blackened by smoke, spilled out on the stairs and over the beds. In one room a bunk bed was almost burned to a cinder.
The house was once home to 18 abandoned children. Most of them had congenital conditions, such as cleft palates and infantile paralysis. Some had been diagnosed with mental health disorders.
The 10 surviving children are now in the care of the welfare department in nearby Kaifeng.
The building is owned by Yuan Lihai, a local woman in her late 40s, and had provided shelter for orphans and abandoned children since 1987. Yuan, who funded the refuge from her own pocket, was not at home when the fire broke out because she was taking some of the children to school.
Yuan Lihai's name is well known to the local media, which have often reported on her acts of kindness. During the past two decades and more, Yuan has played the role of surrogate mother to almost 100 abandoned infants and children, leading some locals to nickname her "Loving Mother". Many of the children she rescued over the years are now adults with families of their own.