On January 19, 2024, a fire broke out in a school dormitory at Yingcai School in Yanshanpu village, Henan province, China. The incident claimed the lives of thirteen students, all in the third grade, according to reports from various sources, including the official Xinhua news agency, China Newsweek, and China Central Television Station.
The fire at Yingcai School was reported to the local fire department around 11 p.m. local time on Friday. The school, which is both a kindergarten and an elementary school, is located near Nanyang City.
The flames were extinguished less than an hour after firefighters arrived at the scene, around 11:38 p.m. According to reports, one person has been injured and is in stable condition.
The manager of the school has been detained as authorities launch an investigation into the cause of the incident.
All of the deceased students were identified as third-grade elementary school students. A teacher shared with state-backed media outlet Zonglan News that the victims were from the same class of nine and ten-year-olds.
Approximately 30 students were present in the dormitory when the fire broke out, and rescuers arrived to evacuate the remaining students to safety. The injured survivor is receiving treatment at the hospital and is reported to be in stable condition.
The news of the school dormitory fire spread on Chinese social media platforms, with millions of users expressing grief and outrage.
Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, witnessed over 16 million people engaging with posts related to the incident by Saturday afternoon.
Many users addressed the timing of the incident, occurring just days before the Chinese New Year school holidays, a time traditionally dedicated to family reunions.
Fatal fires are common in the country, with lax enforcement of building and safety regulations often cited as contributing factors. In November, another fire at a coal company office in Shanxi province claimed 26 lives.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire at Yingcai School. The detention of the school manager shows a commitment to holding individuals accountable for lapses in safety measures.
The Chinese central Emergency Management Ministry has dispatched a team to conduct an investigation. Yingcai School, a privately-run institution that has been operating for ten years, caters to students from nursery and primary grades in nearby rural areas.
While details about the school are limited, social media videos prior to the incident showed young children, including kindergarteners, proudly wearing the school’s logo.
The school provides a break every two weeks for its students, allowing them to spend time with their families.
The country has experienced a series of deadly fires in recent years, often contributed to lax safety standards and poor enforcement.
In November of the previous year, 26 people lost their lives in a fire at a coal company office in northern China’s Shanxi province. Similarly, in April, a hospital fire in Beijing claimed the lives of 29 people.
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