A fire has swept through an old people’s home in China, leaving 38 residents dead.Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and wheelchairs were reduced to charred frames at the privately-owned home in Pingdingshan.
The fire broke out on Monday evening at one of the home’s apartments, according to the state news agency Xinhua, and photos posted online showed a thick column of black smoke coming from behind a petrol station nearby.
The blaze was extinguished less than an hour after it broke out but 38 of the home’s 51 residents were killed. Two of the injured were in a critical condition in hospital.
“The bodies were so badly burned, we couldn’t tell who was who,” Xinhua quoted one victim’s relative saying of the identification process.
“Only myself and one other roommate managed to get out,” survivor Zhao Yulan, 82, who shared her room with 11 other people, told Xinhua.
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged rescue personnel to urgently help the injured and victims’ families and determine the cause of the fire as well as who was responsible, state broadcaster CCTV said.
The cause of the fire is unclear but industrial accidents and fires are common in China, where safety standards can be poor.
A fire at a poultry plant in the country’s northeast killed 119 people in 2013, with reports at the time saying that managers had locked doors inside the factory to stop the workers from going to the toilet, leading to the high death toll.
Nursing homes in the country, which are often under-staffed, are also prone to accidents and safety abuses.
In 2013, 11 nursing home patients burned to death in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang after one of them set the facility on fire in a row over money.
In February this year, a worker in Hunan province killed three people and injured another 15 when he attacked residents and staff at a nursing home after a row with its owner.