An investigation is underway after 29 people died in a fire at a Beijing hospital

Preliminary findings suggest that the fire started from painting materials that caught fire at the Beijing Changfeng Private Hospital.

Officials say the death toll from a fire at a Beijing private hospital has risen to 29, with an initial investigation suggesting that flammable paint materials caught fire during renovation work.

The fire broke out in the east wing of Beijing Changfeng Hospital at 1 pm (05:00 GMT) on Tuesday, and was extinguished about half an hour later, state media reported.

Li Zongrong, vice mayor of Beijing’s western Fengtai District, where the hospital is located, expressed his “deepest condolences” when announcing the new figures at a press conference on Wednesday. All but three of the dead were patients.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that initial investigations suggested the fire was caused by “sparks generated during interior renovation and construction of the hospital’s inpatient unit”.

The sparks “ignited the volatiles of the flammable paint on the floor”, it said.

Dozens of people have been evacuated from the seven-story building, while 39 people are being treated for injuries in the fire. Officials said that 3 of them are in critical condition and 18 are critical.

“There was a lot of smoke, I could see it,” an elderly resident, who asked not to be identified by Li’s name, told Reuters news agency.

City officials visited the site shortly after the fire broke out. Beijing, along with Party Secretary Yin Li, vowed to “quickly find out the cause of the accident and hold the responsible persons responsible accountable.”

Investigators inside the burned room at the hospital Tuesday night [Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

On Wednesday, Sun Haitao of Beijing’s Public Security Bureau announced that 12 people, including the facility’s director, had been detained in connection with the fire, along with representatives of the company renovating the hospital.

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An investigation has been initiated

Dozens of onlookers gathered outside the hospital’s entrance on Wednesday, according to the AFP news agency, after the city’s worst fire in at least 20 years. The facility was cordoned off and police officers were stationed at the gate to prevent people from taking photographs.

Social media users on Tuesday posted videos of people sitting in outdoor air conditioning units, while others appeared to have tied bedsheets to makeshift ropes to escape from windows.

The death was confirmed after the victims were rushed to another unidentified hospital for emergency treatment, the report said.

Many family members have lost contact with the patients, and the missing are mostly elderly people with mobility problems, China Youth Daily said in a separate report on Wednesday.

A police officer at the scene told AFP that the city would “probably make appropriate arrangements” to take care of the victims’ relatives.

Changfeng Hospital is about 25 minutes by car from central Tiananmen Square.

Deadly fires are common in China due to lax safety standards and lax enforcement.

An apartment fire in northwestern Xinjiang in November killed 10 people, with Covid-19 lockdowns being blamed for hampering rescue efforts. Protests sparked by the deaths spread across the country and led to the end of China’s zero-covid strategy.

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