Xinhua News Agency

Bodies removed amid secrecy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 12:00am

The Luoyang Government has delayed identifying the victims killed in the fire, hoping to avoid mass unrest in the city.

A local source said soldiers and anti-riot police were called in at about 4 am yesterday to remove the bodies from the six-storey Dongdu Commercial Building.

Xinhua also reported that the Dongdu Commercial Building was 'cleaned up' by yesterday afternoon - only about 15 hours after the fire broke out.

However, relatives of the victims were not allowed to identify the bodies or visit survivors in hospital.

'The bodies were removed quickly by trucks. People are not allowed to identify the bodies at the funeral homes or visit the injured in hospital today [Tuesday],' the source said.

'The authorities hope that by delaying identification, the relatives will not react too strongly and some may still hope that their friends or relatives might have survived.'

As some of the victims were workers who came from other cities, their families have not yet been informed about the tragedy, the source said.

'For example, some girls were missing from our office today,' the source said.

'We all suspect that they may be among those killed in the dance hall although nobody can confirm it.'

Yesterday, some relatives were told that they would only be allowed to identify the bodies today at funeral homes.

But most families and friends who had hoped to find their loved ones in hospitals are likely to be disappointed as few survived the fatal blaze.

A nurse at the No 3 People's Hospital in Luoyang said all 19 victims sent to her hospital were dead on arrival.

'Since the blaze was so serious, they were all dead when they were sent here last night,' the nurse said yesterday.

She said most died of suffocation. 'I have heard from other hospitals that most victims died before they reached the emergency units.'

Although hospitals had been banned from talking about the real casualty figures, eyewitnesses in Luoyang said they believed fewer than 10 had survived the fire.

Xinhua said last night that only seven had been discharged from hospital after being treated.

According to official media reports yesterday, some were injured when they jumped out of a window in a bid to escape.

A survivor surnamed Wang said she was pushed out of a window by her husband when the fire broke out.

She saw five or six people follow her but was still looking for her husband.