September 22, 2008 / 4:46 AM / 11 years ago

China officials to be punished for dance hall blaze

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will likely sack five officials in connection with a fire at an illegal dance club in southern China, just across the border from Hong Kong, which killed 43 mostly young people and injured 88.

Firemen search for survivors after a fire at a dance club in Shenzhen, Guangdong province September 21, 2008. REUTERS/China Daily

Police had detained 13 people in connection with the fire including the manager of the unlicensed club in Longgang, a blue-collar area about an hour’s taxi ride from Shenzhen.

The fire broke out on Saturday night at the “King of the Dancers” club, when more than 300 people were watching a show.

Fireworks set off during the show ignited flammable material in the ceiling leading to the blaze, the official Xinhua news agency reported citing an initial police investigation.

China’s Ministry of Culture had also ordered a national safety sweep on all “cultural and performance facilities” and would close any unlicensed venues, Xinhua said.

“It told its local offices to blacklist problematic facilities and coordinate with work safety departments to follow up until the problems were resolved,” the report added.

Police said the club was very popular and it was not uncommon for fights to break out.

The five officials include the head of the local fire department. The blaze is a grim reminder of the country’s broken regulatory system and patchy fire safety regulations.

A nightclub fire in Luoyang, in central Henan province, killed 309 people on Christmas Day in 2000.

Local television footage showed police sealing off roads leading to the gutted nightclub and busloads of investigators being brought in to examine the crime scene on Monday. Meanwhile, a stream of tearful relatives were shown visiting a morgue to identify the dead.

Five of the dead came from nearby Hong Kong.

Shenzhen’s Communist Party chief, Liu Yupu, had ordered district-wide safety inspections and a probe into the incident involving safety and provincial officials, Xinhua added.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and James Pomfret in Hong Kong

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