Hotel Fire in Northeastern China
Kills 33 BEIJING -
Thirty-three people died when flames swept through a hotel
in China's northeast on the Chinese New Year weekend, forcing
guests to flee through smoke-choked hallways and smash windows
in a frantic search for air, the government said Monday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the fire Sunday night
tore through the Tiantan Hotel in Harbin, the capital of
Heilongjiang province near China's border with Russia. Most
of the victims died from smoke inhalation, one doctor said.
"I heard a big noise and saw the smoke," said
one hotel guest, Wang Lin. "Downstairs was chaos. People
were shouting, `Fire! Fire!' I ran."
Witnesses quoted by Xinhua told of a chaotic scene in which
some hotel guests ran toward the smoke in desperate search
of an exit, while others broke windows and kicked through
security bars in window wells to escape.
Authorities immediately ordered safety inspections across
Harbin. The cause of the fire was still under investigation.
Sixteen people were hospitalized but were "out of
danger" by Monday morning, Xinhua said, adding that
more than 100 were evacuated after the blaze, which broke
out at 6 p.m. and was extinguished in 22 minutes.
Wang, who checked into the hotel with 15 relatives about
a half-hour before the fire, said her young son was outside
playing when she noticed the fire.
She collected her child, went back into her room briefly
and then fled, tossing her son out of a second-story window
to people standing below. Later, she learned that her sister-in-law
and nephew had been killed in the fire, Xinhua said.
Jia Xuezong, an emergency room doctor at Harbin No. 4 Hospital,
where many of the victims were taken, said many died from
"Most of them suffocated," he said. "Some
of them burned to death or fell down and couldn't get out."
Harbin, a city of 9.1 million on the Songhua River, is
about 800 miles northeast of Beijing. It is one of the country's
coldest cities. Temperatures last week fell to 5 below zero,
and coal is widely used for heating.
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