A fire broke out at a mixed-use building in southeastern China Wednesday, killing at least 39 people and injuring nine others in the second deadly blaze involving students in a week, state media reported.
The fire started in the basement of the street-front building in Xinyu city, Jiangxi province, and quickly spread to stores on the ground floor and a tutoring center and guesthouse on the second floor.
Most of the victims trapped by flames and thick billowing smoke were college students taking classes at the center and people staying at the guesthouse, Xinhua said.
A preliminary investigation found the blaze was caused during an improper renovation of a cold storage facility in the basement, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Twelve people have been detained, the agency said.
The tragedy came days after another fire broke out in the dormitory of a boarding school in the central province of Henan late on Friday night, killing 13 children in third grade. Authorities have not disclosed the cause of that blaze.
Footage of the latest fire circulating on Chinese social media shows people jumping out of the second-floor window and landing on a mattress laid on the street with the help of police.
Others are seen climbing down a ladder around the corner of the building as thick black smoke billows out from the building and engulfs the sky above the street.
“There was too much smoke, and people (on the second floor) might not know where the fire was burning. They might have thought the staircase was in flames and didn’t dare to run there,” a man who escaped from an internet cafe on the ground floor told the state-run Beijing Daily.
Another witness told Cover News, a state-owned media outlet, that many students were at the tutoring center when the fire broke out.
“I saw most of those who made it out were students, about 19 or 20 years old. Some escaped on their own, and some were rescued by firefighters,” the witness was quoted as saying.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping issued a statement about the fire, noting it was yet another major safety tragedy to have occurred recently and calling for “deep reflections.”
Xi urged all government authorities to “learn lessons deeply,” “carefully investigate hidden risks and dangers” in production safety and “resolutely curb the frequent occurrence of various safety accidents to ensure the safety of people’s lives and property and overall social stability,” according to Xinhua.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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