BEIJING—A fire tore through a martial arts training center in China during the early hours of Friday morning, killing 18 people, with one state media outlet reporting that most of the dead were children who were staying there.
The blaze broke out at 3 a.m. and injured 16 people, four of whom were in serious condition as reported on the the government of Zhecheng county, in Henan province, website. It was unclear what caused the fire.
Most of the casualties were students aged between 7 and 16 staying on the center’s second floor, the Beijing Youth Daily said in a report that was later deleted from its website.
The actual number of casualties is difficult to verify, as the Chinese regime routinely suppresses or alters information.
In a social media post, Zhonghong, a news outlet backed by China’s state planner, identified the center as Zhenxing Martial Arts Center. Neither Zhenxing or its founder, Chen Lin, answered calls seeking comment.
“My kid is nine years old, but I know nothing about his current situation. We can’t see him or visit him,” said Zheng, the father of one of the children admitted to hospital.
“At Zhenxing, the kids would study and practice martial arts in the day and live there every night. I don’t know what caused the fire,” Zheng told Reuters by telephone.
Another father was filled with relief that his son was among the survivors.
“It’s extremely lucky that my son escaped from the fire, but I don’t know anything specific,” said Xu, 39.
“All information is being blocked,” he said in a text-message.
The county said the police detained the person in charge of the training center, but did not identify the person or name the center.
Fires are not uncommon in China, due partly to patchy safety protocols and sub-standard construction. In one of China’s most horrific fires, 309 people were killed at a nightclub in the city of Luoyang, also in Henan, on Christmas Day in 2000.
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report