Nursing home resident lit fire killing 11 in Heilongjiang

Row over stolen money is believed to have led to deadly arson attack in Heilongjiang, with city authorities launching immediate safety review

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 11:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 2:44am

A resident angry over some missing money lit a fire at a nursing home in Heilongjiang province yesterday, killing himself and 10 elderly patients.

The suspected arsonist, Wang Gui, 45, had been living in the Hailun city nursing home for three years since having a stroke. Two other elderly residents were treated for smoke inhalation.

The Hailun government said the fire broke out in the in-patient section of the Lianhe Nursing Home at 1.15am and it took firefighters more than an hour to extinguish it.

Wang was believed to have set the blaze in anger at an elderly resident who he accused of stealing 200 yuan (HK$250), authorities said.

He was so angry when he discovered the money was missing on Thursday afternoon that he broke windows in the ward.

Police said Wang appeared to have calmed down after speaking to his sister and officials from his village, but must have become agitated later that night.

The 450-bed nursing home was occupied by 283 mostly elderly patients, including 32 in the in-patient area.

In response to the deadly fire, the Hailun government authorities ordered a safety review of all crowded places across the city, particularly nursing homes and kindergartens.

Many mainland internet users posted virtual candles on their microblog accounts, a popular way to show mourning.

The fire was the latest in a series of headline-grabbing acts of violence in recent days, including knife attacks in Beijing and Guangxi and a bombing at Beijing Capital International Airport last weekend.

The fire also raised concerns about the safety of elderly care services on the mainland, where 14 per cent of the population - or 194 million people - were over 60 last year, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

There were 44,304 elderly service agencies, offering more than 4 million beds, the ministry said.

"Elderly people in nursing homes need tender and professional care," one internet user wrote.

"They need a safe place to spend their later years and so do we in the future."