Beijing hospital fire death toll rises to 29, mostly patients


BEIJING (AP)  The death toll from a fire in a Beijing hospital has risen to 29, including 26 patients, officials said Wednesday, with more than a dozen people arrested, including the hospital director and his deputy.

A fire broke out at Changfeng Private Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, forcing dozens to evacuate. Some of those trapped had to tie up their bedsheets and escape through windows.

He Li Zongrong, the deputy mayor of Fengtai Ward, said a nurse, a medical assistant and a family member were also killed in the incident.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials say they believe it was caused by welding sparks from work on the fixed wing of the hospital. Among the 12 arrested was the head of a construction worker.

A total of 39 people were being treated for injuries, three of them in critical condition. Rescue teams and medical workers were mobilized from across the city, and a squad rescued some of his 142 people who had been evacuated from an air conditioning unit outside the building.

Safety regulations are often ignored in China, but accidents at Changfeng’s fire level are treated more cautiously. Accidents during construction are sometimes due to reduced working hours and safety conditions, and local officials are bribed to ignore violations. The central government has promised tougher security measures since a 2015 explosion at a chemical warehouse in the northern port city of Tianjin killed 173 people, mostly firefighters and police.