18 die in suspected arson attack on Chinese karaoke lounge
Man arrested after blaze in Qingyuan in southern Guangdong province
A suspected arsonist has been arrested after a fire killed 18 people at a karaoke lounge in southern China.
The fire broke out soon after midnight on Tuesday in Qingyuan in Guangdong province, according to a police statement.
Five people were also injured in the blaze and sent for to hospital for treatment.
Liu Chunlu, 32, was detained half an hour after police issued a wanted notice for him. He was also injured in the incident.
The Ministry of Public Security said vice-minister Li Wei would head up a special task force investigating the case at the site.
State broadcaster CCTV reported earlier on Tuesday that the suspected arsonist got into an argument, then used a motorcycle to block the building’s door and lit the fire.
A video from the scene, posted by the state-run tabloid Global Times on Twitter, shows flames leaping from a building on a tree-lined street at night as a crowd looks on and at least one rescue vehicle flashes its lights.
The fire at the three-storey building was put out at just before 1am after police, fire, health and work safety departments sent emergency workers to the scene.
Fatal fires are common in China, where safety regulations are widely flouted and enforcement is lax.
More than two dozen people were killed in two fires in Beijing’s migrant neighbourhoods late last year.
The first blaze, which killed 19 people in November, prompted the authorities to begin tearing down unsafe buildings in the capital, forcing hundreds of thousands of migrants back to their hometowns.
In January 2016, a man set a bus ablaze in Ningxia, killing 18 people. He was sentenced to death six months later.