Xinhua News Agency

Hospital duo face charges over fire

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2006, 12:00am

Dereliction counts against directors after 39 die in Jilin blaze

Two top officials from a hospital in Jilin province have been charged with dereliction of duty over a fire in December that killed 39 people.

Liaoyuan City Central Hospital director Zhang Shaowen and deputy director Li Mingming were among 11 people arrested by the Jilin Public Security Bureau after the blaze on December 15, Xinhua reported yesterday.

The report did not say if the other nine had been charged.

An investigation by State Council and Jilin province officials found Li had delayed reporting the fire to the police after learning about it from hospital staff.

'Don't call the police, otherwise firefighters will come and get the hospital all wet, putting it out of service tomorrow,' Xinhua quoted him as saying at the time.

Xinhua said Li eventually called the police once he discovered how serious the fire was. The blaze had been burning for half an hour by the time firefighters arrived. It was estimated the hospital building structure should have burned to its core in about 25 minutes.

It took firefighters six hours to extinguish the fire, in which 24 people died at the scene, and 15 others later. It also left 182 people injured.

The fire destroyed 5,000 square metres of the hospital's total 43,000 square metres, the Shenghuo Daily reported.

A hospital attendant yesterday said services resumed at the hospital last month.

Jilin fire official Pan Chengshan was quoted by Xinhua as saying many fires in the province had turned into serious incidents because of delayed reporting. To minimise such fires, the province invested 200 million yuan in preventive measures last year.

From January 1 to 25, provincial public security officials conducted inspections of fire prevention measures in Jilin. They fined more than 1,000 organisations and individuals a total of 2.4 million yuan and arrested 155 people.

More than 100 organisations had to stop production or call a halt to business.

The cause of the hospital fire is believed to be related to an electricity blackout.

An electrician was sent to inspect equipment after the blackout, and restored the power without determining the cause of the failure. Within minutes, the electrical equipment room was full of smoke.

The electrician, surnamed Zhang, was arrested in December during investigations. A logistics manager was also arrested in connection with the fire.

Health Minister Gao Qiang described the fire as the worst disaster to hit modern China's medical system. It also had forced the city's party secretary to make a public apology.