| Firemen work at the site where a fire occurred in a building in Daxing District in Beijing, capital of China, April 25, 2011. A fire broke out in the building in Daxing Monday morning, leaving 17 people dead and another 24 injured. More than 30 people were evacuated. (Xinhua/Zhang Yu)|
BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Seventeen people were killed and 25 others injured in a southern Beijing suburb Monday morning in the deadliest fire the Chinese capital has seen in nine years.
Nine men and eight women died in the fire. Most of them were migrant workers seeking accommodation in the building, said Wang Xin, deputy chief of the Daxing District Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Out of the 17 dead, thirteen were workers hired by an unlicensed garment workshop called Yuyun and the other four were tenants in the four-story building. Eleven of the victims lived on the ground floor, said Wang.
The 25 injured people, including two children, were rushed to hospitals. All of the injured, except except for a 6-year-old girl, were treated at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital. The girl was hospitalized in Beijing Children's Hospital, according to a list provided by fire control headquarters.
The fire broke out around 1 a.m. Monday in a building in the town of Jiugong in Beijing's Daxing district. It raged for an hour before being extinguished around 2 a.m.
Officials and witnesses said the fire started in the garment workshop. Trapped people were seen screaming and smashing the workshop's barred windows in an attempt to escape.
Photos taken at the site showed that the windows of the building were blocked with iron bars, which were initially installed to ward off burglars. The bars prevented the trapped people from escaping.
"We saw people jumping from the building. About six or seven people, clad in pajamas, flung themselves from the first floor after kicking open the bars on one window," said Wang Xuegang, a local resident.
"It was a real nightmare. Some dived from the top floor and never rose again," said Wang.
Fire engines were blocked by the area's narrow valleys, and firefighters had to manually carry hoses to the site to douse the blaze, said Wang.
"The first floor was filled with choking fumes. With no way to leave, my wife and I jumped from a platform at the top of the building," said a survivor surnamed Xu who suffered broken legs.
Investigations showed that the building was illegally built by a local resident surnamed Zhang in 2010. Zhang leased out the ground floor to the owners of the garment business.
The floors above the garment shop were rented to migrant workers seeking inexpensive housing. The ground floor also housed the garment workshop's employees.
Forty-three-year-old Gao Defa, owner of the workshop, is also receiving medical treatment. His wife was confirmed dead in the fire. Their 6-year-old daughter is in critical condition.
A further probe into the cause of the fire is under way.
Liu Qi, secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, and mayor Guo Jinlong were at the site to direct the investigation.
The municipal Work Safety Commission convened an emergency meeting Monday noon to discuss cracking down on illegal buildings and eliminating fire hazards in the future.
All illegal buildings that are currently under construction will be torn down, and unlicensed businesses will be shut down, said Shao Heng, deputy chief of the district's government office. Workplaces with significant safety hazards will have their work suspended and will be ordered to eliminate the hazards, said Shao.
The blaze was the most fatal fire to occur in Beijing in about nine years. On June 16, 2002, a fire consumed an underground Internet cafe called "Lanjisu" and claimed 25 victims, mostly college students.
In 2009, another fire made national headlines after it swept through one of the newly-built headquarter buildings of China Central Television (CCTV), killing one firefighter and injuring eight others.