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Nursing home inferno leaves 38 dead in central China

Updated: 2015-05-26 07:52

Nursing home inferno leaves 38 dead in central China

Fire breaks out in a nursing home at Sanlihe village of Lushan county in Pingdingshan city of Central China's Henan province on Monday.[Photo/chinanews.com]

ZHENGZHOU - Thirty-eight people were killed and six others injured in a fire at a rest home in Central China's Henan province on Monday night, local authorities said on Tuesday.

The inferno at a row of bungalows at privately-owned Kangleyuan Rest Home in Lushan county, Pingdingshan city, started at 7:33 pm, according to a statement issued by the provincial publicity office on Tuesday morning.

The six injured, two of whom are in serious conditions, have been hospitalized, said the statement.

The blaze swept through the complex, which is home to 51 senior citizens, before being put out at around 8:22 pm.

Xinhua reporters saw gutted and collapsed building structures and frames of destroyed beds and wheelchairs scattered around at the site, which has been cordoned off.

The search and rescue operation involving hundreds of rescuers ended on Tuesday morning, said the statement.

"I was on my bed at the time. Suddenly I saw a worker with the rest home run out of a room on fire and he shouted 'Run! Run!' to me, so I dashed out," said 78-year-old Guo Xin.

The 130-bed rest home divides its inmates into three groups and accommodates them in separate sections: those who can care for themselves, who can partly care for themselves, and those who are completely dependent on care givers, Xinhua learned from the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA).

The burned dorms housed the final group.

"They are bedridden or rely on crutches. They even can't eat by themselves," Guo said.

He noted the "bad quality" of the burned dorms, which were "built with iron sheets and without foundations". Another survivor, Chen Runsheng, complained that the rest home lacked care givers. "You can't find them at night," said the 80-year-old man, who settled there two years ago.

Zhao Yulan, 82, said she was rescued from her room, which she shared with 11 people. "Only myself and one other roommate managed to get out," she said.

Relatives of some of the home's residents told Xinhua that it was very difficult to identify their bodies. "The bodies were so badly burned, we couldn't tell who was who," one said.

The county hospital is treating four slightly injured people, including a 52-year-old man, his family said.

The MCA sent a team to Lushan on Tuesday morning to help deal with the aftermath and asked all its subordinate agencies to launch safety checks in order to prevent similar accidents in the future.

The rest home project was approved by local civil affairs authorities in late 2010. Located in the county seat of Lushan, it covers an area of two hectares and has a floor space of 600 square meters.

China is facing grave challenges in caring for its rapidly aging population, which accounted for 15.5 percent of the total population by the end of 2014. This is expected to rise to 30 percent by 2050.

Latest figures show China had some 32,000 registered homes for senior citizens by the end of March. It has around 220,000 care givers in rest homes, while 10 million are needed.

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