Manhunt in China after 22 killed in arson attack on dormitory

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 July, 2017, 9:08pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 July, 2017, 10:57pm

Police in China have arrested one person over a suspected arson attack on a dormitory that left 22 people dead in Changshu, Jiangsu province, early on Sunday.

A manhunt was under way for other suspects.

The fire broke out at about 4.30am and quickly engulfed the two-storey brick house in Hushan township rented to a nearby restaurant to house staff, The Beijing News reported.

Jiangsu police said the doors to the house had been locked from the outside, trapping most of the occupants inside. Traces of petrol we also found at the scene.

Three people escaped the blaze with minor injuries.

All of the dead were found inside the ruins of the house after firefighters extinguished the blaze, the city government said.

Jiangsu police said they identified a number of suspects from surveillance footage and wanted notices had been issued for them.

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Police were questioning people linked to the restaurant, according to one of its employees. The restaurant worker said all of the victims were colleagues and had lived in the house for more than two years, the newspaper ­reported.

“There were more than 20 people, from all over the country. [They were] about 25 years of age on average. [They] included waiters, waitresses and chefs,” the worker was quoted as saying.

With rents in Chinese cities out of the reach of many workers, employers often provide accommodation for their staff to compensate for low salaries.

But the dormitories provided are often cramped and fire hazards, with residents using electronic appliances such as rice cookers hooked up to networks of exposed wiring, according to ­previous mainland media ­reports.

The dormitories are also rarely equipped with fire extinguishers or have fire escapes, according to Chinese authorities.

Last month, a landlord in Sanya, Hainan province, was jailed for 15 days over a fire at his flat that he had leased to 72 tenants, according to Hainan Daily. No casualties were reported in the fire.