Twenty people were killed and 31 injured yesterday in a fire that broke out in the bathhouse of a hotel in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, Xinhua reported. The cause of the fire, which began at 4am in the basement of the Hawaii Grand Hotel, had yet to be determined, Xinhua said. The victims, half of them women, choked to death in the bathhouse. The news agency said firemen had 'encountered great difficulties during their rescue operation because electric power was cut off'. Xinhua said 25 of the 51 casualties were hotel staff and five were guests. It did not identify the others. It said firefighters arrived at the scene within five minutes of receiving a phone call, but the blaze had already engulfed the hotel in thick smoke. Firefighters evacuated more than 150 hotel guests, including seven Japanese, from 87 hotel rooms. They searched the hotel at least five times to make sure all guests had been evacuated. The hotel appeared undamaged yesterday apart from the basement, Xinhua said. A Changchun Public Security Bureau spokesman said he had not heard any reports of Hong Kong residents being among the victims. The fire was put out early yesterday. The injured were being treated at nearby hospitals, the agency said. Local officials said an inquiry was under way and those responsible would be brought to justice. The manager of the bathhouse was celebrating Christmas with his employees when the fire broke out, Xinhua said. Jilin Governor Hong Hu and Changchun Mayor Li Shu visited the site yesterday morning and immediately ordered a thorough investigation and safety inspection across the province. The Xinhua report did not explain why the bathhouse was so crowded at such an early hour and did not say if the women were customers or massage girls. Many hotels in China offer sauna and massage services to hotel guests. It is widely known that prostitutes often frequent these facilities. Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo early this month warned businesses to step up vigilance on workplace safety.