A fire in the dormitory of a kindergarten and elementary school in central China killed 13 people, Chinese state-owned news media reported on Saturday.
A 14th person was being treated for injuries in a hospital after the fire broke out on Friday night, China Central Television said. Firefighters were called at 11 p.m., and the blaze was extinguished by 11:38, according to the television report, which also said that the head of the school had been taken into custody. The CCTV report provided no further details, including whether any of the dead were children.
A teacher from the school told an online media outlet, Zonglan News, that all the victims were in the same third-grade class. It did not give the teacher’s name. Zonglan News falls under the umbrella of Hebei Daily Group, a state-owned publication.
It was not immediately known whether all the students at the school were boarders, or how big the dormitory was. Calls to the school on Saturday morning went unanswered.
The news of the fire became the second-most searched topic online, with 160 million views on Weibo, China’s most popular social media platform, on Saturday.
Many people online expressed their sympathy for relatives of the victims and called for a full and transparent accounting of the disaster. “It’s really shocking that this happened in a school that should put the highest efforts into guaranteeing safety,” one commenter wrote.
The school, known as Dushu Town Yingcai School, is in Fangcheng County in central Henan Province, and is privately owned. It recently invested more than the equivalent of $1.4 million in “construction and beautification of the school,” according to a post from its official social media account several years ago. It is situated on 35 acres that include a track field for sports and a basketball court. The school has received praise from local authorities, it said.
The kindergarten charges $25 a month for tuition, according to the local authority’s education website. The average annual disposable income of residents in Fangcheng County was $3,372 in 2022, according to official statistics.
Li You contributed research.