13 die in primary school fire in central China’s Henan province

Thirteen people died in a fire at a primary school dormitory in the central Chinese province of Henan late on Friday, Chinese media reported on Saturday.

All of the victims were third-graders, or about nine years old, according to teachers at the school quoted by Zonglan News, a media outlet in neighbouring Hebei province owned by the official Hebei Daily.

State news agency Xinhua did not give the age of the victims.

One person was also injured and was in stable condition, undergoing treatment in hospital.

The blaze at Yingcai School in Yingshanpu village, Fangcheng county, was reported to local fire services at 11pm on Friday, according Xinhua.

“The fire response team reached the location promptly and managed to put out the fire by 11.38pm,” Xinhua reported.

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Yingcai School is located around 20km (12.4 miles) from the Fangcheng county seat.

According to the Yingcai School’s WeChat account, the campus covers around 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres), with buildings and facilities covering around 17,000 square metres (182,986 sq ft). It includes both primary and preschool sections and operates under a boarding system with small class teaching.

The institution has been recognised as an “Advanced Unit of Social Forces in Running Schools” – an award for excellent private schools – for several consecutive years.

Sichuan-based Cover News reported that residents described the school as a “township private primary school” established around 10 years ago and mainly serving local pupils, most of whom boarded at the school.

One nearby shopkeeper told Cover News the school bus had taken most of the children home for the weekend, leaving only about a dozen on campus on Friday night. Many of those left on campus had families living far away or parents working elsewhere, so nobody could pick them up.

“They were supposed to start their winter holiday in a few days, but this tragic incident occurred,” the shopkeeper said.

According to Shanghai-based news site The Paper, pupils at the school come from multiple nearby villages, and students who had remained on campus have left following the fire.

Another business owner near school said he rushed to the scene during the fire.

“The flames were intense, and the fire and smoke could be seen and smelled from a distance,” he told Beijing Youth Daily. “The cries for help from the students could be heard, and fire engines and ambulances were quickly on the scene.”

Following the incident, leaders from Henan province and the nearby city of Nanyang established a command centre to deal with the situation, Xinhua reported.

They launched an investigation into the cause of the fire and are managing the aftermath, and the person in charge of the school has been taken into custody, according to Xinhua.

Meanwhile in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, a dust explosion killed eight at a metal production workshop on Saturday morning. The explosion took place at 3.38am at Changzhou Shenrong Metal Technology Co in Wujin district under the city of Changzhou. Eight others sustained minor injuries in the accident.

“On-site rescue operations have now concluded, and investigations, as well as follow-up actions, are currently under way,” Xinhua reported.

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