Chinese police have detained 12 people over a hospital fire that killed 29 people, mostly elderly in-patients, in Beijing Tuesday, one of the deadliest fires in the Chinese capital in recent years.
The blaze that engulfed an inpatient building of the Changfeng Hospital was caused by renovation work of its interior, where sparks from the construction ignited flammable paint, said Zhao Yang, an official at Beijing’s fire department, on Wednesday.
The hospital director and construction workers were among 12 suspects held on suspicion of major negligence, said Sun Haitao, an official with the Beijing Public Security Bureau.
Among the victims, 26 were inpatients with an average age of 71. The oldest victim was 88 years old. A nurse, a care worker and a family also died in the fire, according to Li Zongrong, deputy head of the Fengtai district government.
A total of 142 people were evacuated, including 71 patients. As of Wednesday, 39 injured remain in hospital, with three in critical condition, said Li Ang, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Heath Commission.
In videos shared on social media Tuesday, smoke could be seen billowing out of several hospital windows as people desperately attempted to escape the blaze. At least one person appeared to use a rope made from bedsheets to descend from a window onto a lower level terrace.
Others were seen either sitting on air conditioning units positioned on the exterior of the building, or trying to use the units to maneuver themselves from one level to the next. One person was seen jumping from one level of the building to the lower terrace.
The blaze is the most deadly in Beijing in recent years, surpassing the toll from a fire in 2017 that killed 19 in a cramped two-story building in Daxing district in the capital’s southern suburb.
That tragedy prompted authorities to demolish large swathes of buildings deemed illegal or unsafe in the neighborhood and forced thousands of migrant workers out of their homes and businesses.