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Care home fire kills 38 in China

Published 26/05/2015

The fire was in the city of Pingdingshan in Henan province
The fire was in the city of Pingdingshan in Henan province

A fire that swept through a privately run home for the elderly in central China killed 38 people and left much of it a charred ruin, raising concerns over the safety of facilities housing the country's rapidly ageing population.

The fire broke out on Monday night in the privately run Kangleyuan Rest Home, which housed 51 residents in the city of Pingdingshan in Henan province, the province's work safety administration said.

In addition to the dozens who died, six people were injured, including two in serious condition, it said.

A photo of the fire scene released by China's official Xinhua News Agency showed the 130-bed facility appeared to have completely burned down.

Xinhua said that a rescue operation was still under way and that the cause of the fire was unclear.

"I was in my bed at the time. Suddenly, I saw a worker run out of a room on fire and he shouted 'Run! Run!' to me, so I dashed out," Guo Xin, 78, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

One survivor, 82-year-old Zhao Yulan, said only two of the 11 people living in her room made it out alive, Xinhua reported. Some of the remains of people killed in the fire were burned beyond recognition, the news agency said.

The fire destroyed a part of the home housing people completely dependent on others for care.

Xinhua quoted 80-year-old resident Chen Runsheng as saying not enough caregivers were working at the facility.

Chinese president Xi Jinping urged rescue personnel to urgently aid the injured and victims' families, and to determine the cause of the fire and who was responsible, Xinhua reported.

Premier Li Keqiang called on officials across the country to "draw lessons from the accident, checking all potential safety hazards to avoid similar incidents", Xinhua said.

With a rapidly ageing population and under-resourced social security net, China faces increasing pressure to provide safe and affordable care for the elderly.

Xinhua cited figures showing a severe shortage of caregivers in the country, with 220,000 working in homes for the elderly, while 10 million are needed.

In 2013, a disgruntled resident set fire to a home for the elderly in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, killing himself and 10 others.

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