FIRE INQUIRY

Death toll in hotel blaze in Xiangyang, Hubei, rises to 14

Three suspects wanted for questioning by police turn themselves in, but fourth remains at large

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 5:04am

The death toll has risen to 14 from a fire at a commercial building with a hotel in Xiangyang, Hubei province.

But three of four suspects wanted by police in connection with the blaze turned themselves in yesterday, according to a local government statement online.

The four suspects were the owners and managers of an internet café and hotel in the building.

The fourth suspect remained at large. Police said a task force had been dispatched to detain the suspect, but it wasn't clear where.

Three more people were pronounced dead at hospital yesterday. The victims of Sunday's blaze included 10 females and four males. The youngest was a five-year-old girl, and the oldest was a 76-year-old woman.

A total of 47 people were injured, and 24 were in serious but stable condition yesterday while more than a dozen were discharged after treatment for minor injuries. The fire started at about 6am and was brought under control by about 9am.

Residents living nearby told People's Daily that it took firefighters more than an hour to reach the scene. They said the first to arrive didn't have ladders or inflatable cushions to save people clinging to safety on window ledges.

The families of the dead have been notified and an emergency fund established, the authorities said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation yesterday, but authorities said it started around 6am in an internet café on the first floor of the five-storey building and quickly spread through the hotel on the second to fourth floors. The ground floor featured small shops. Police said there were 25 people in the café.

Four who were sitting close to where the fire broke out said they smelled something burning and noticed thick smoke. They panicked and rushed out, police said.

A total of 67 guests occupied 54 hotel rooms, according to China News Service. A guest on the top floor told Xinhua he had to break through security bars outside the window.

He tied blankets to the window frame, slid to the second floor and fell to the ground, suffering only cuts and bruises.

Witnesses said they saw some people jump from the top floor, suffering serious injuries.