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At least 15 killed in residential fire in east China

BEIJING (AFP) – At least 15 people have been killed and 44 injured in a fire at a residential building in eastern China’s Nanjing, local authorities said yesterday.

The fire broke out early on Friday morning, officials said at a press conference, with a preliminary investigation suggesting the blaze started on the building’s first floor, where electric bikes had been placed.

The building is located in the Yuhuatai district of Nanjing, a city of more than eight million that lies about 260 kilometres northwest of Shanghai. By 6am, the fire had been extinguished, and a search and rescue operation ended around 2pm on Friday, authorities said.

Twenty-five fire trucks were mobilised to fight the blaze, emergency services said.

Footage circulating on Chinese social networks showed a skyscraper on fire in the middle of the night, with black smoke pouring from it.

The burnt residential building in Nanjing City, China. PHOTO: AFP

Other images show gigantic flames consuming several floors of the building, the flashing lights of emergency vehicles visible nearby in the dark. Additional footage, apparently taken later, shows white smoke pouring from several points in the building.

The 44 injured people were sent to hospital for treatment, officials said, adding one was in “critical condition” while another was seriously injured. At a press conference, city Mayor Chen Zhichang offered his condolences and apologies to the victims’ families. The country has seen a spate of deadly fires in recent months – prompting calls from President Xi Jinping last month for “deep reflection” and greater efforts to “curb the frequent occurrence of safety accidents”.

In January, dozens died after a fire broke out at a store in the central city of Xinyu, with state news agency Xinhua reporting the blaze had been caused by the “illegal” use of fire by workers in the store’s basement.

That fire came just days after a late-evening blaze at a school in central China’s Henan province killed 13 schoolchildren as they slept in a dormitory. A teacher at the school told state-run Hebei Daily all the victims were from the same third-grade class of nine and 10 year olds.

Domestic media reports suggested the fire was caused by an electric heating device.

And in November, 26 people were killed and dozens sent to hospital after a fire at a coal company office in northern China’s Shanxi province.

The month before, an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in the northwest of the country left 31 dead and prompted official pledges of a nationwide campaign to promote workplace safety.