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Russian guest among five victims in NE China

2006-03-19 23:22:16


CHANGCHUN, March 19 -- A Russian guest was among the five people killed in a hotel fire in northeast China's Jilin Province on Saturday evening, local government confirmed Sunday.

The blaze, which broke out at around 7:40 p.m. in the Xinqiao Hotel in Yanji, a city in the Korean Autonomous Prefecture of Yanbian, also killed three employees of a Chinese power company and a man who works in Beijing, said Sui Qingjiang, an official ofthe prefecture.

All five victims were men, said the official who did not revealthe victims' names .

Their bodies were found after the fire was extinguished at midnight. Investigators said one of the dead was tall and fair-skinned and suspected he was a Russian, Sui said.

The hotel authorities later confirmed he was a Russian guest who had come to Yanji for medical treatment. He gave a Chinese name when he checked in.

More than 40 guests had checked in at the hotel, most of whom were evacuated from the building when the fire broke out. The few people who had stayed behind including some hotel employees managed to escape the fire by jumping off the building. Two men were injured, one of whom was badly hurt his wrist after jumping from a sixth floor window.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Some witnesses said a neon light billboard at the entrance of the hotelmight be the cause as it was earlier damaged by high winds.

Twenty-six fire trucks and 136 firemen joined the rescue operation, but the seven-story hotel building was in ruins by the time the flames were put out.

The fire also destroyed four cars that were parked near the hotel.

"Thank heavens the fire engines came in time," said a citizen surnamed Cui, who runs a drugstore across the street. "The fire could have spread to other buildings."

Located on a busy downtown street, Xinqiao Hotel was a landmarkin Yanji, which is capital of the Korean Prefecture of Yanbian. The city is adjacent to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and also close to Russia. 58 percent of the 380,000 people in the city are of the Korean ethnic group. Enditem
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