Christmas Day Fire in China Kills 309

A Christmas Day fire killed at least 309 people, many of them revelers at a dance hall, in the central Chinese city of Luoyang, Xinhua news agency and local sources said today.

Dozens of injured were in hospital, Xinhua said without giving a figure.

The blaze broke out in a commercial building at 9.35 p.m., trapping more than 200 Christmas party-goers packed into a fourth-floor dance hall.

Construction workers renovating the second and third floors were also trapped. Witnesses said six or seven people leapt from windows on to safety mats set out by fire fighters.

The fire was finally extinguished late Monday night, Xinhua said. City and Henan provincial leaders were at the scene.

No Reason Cited for Fire

The report gave no cause for the fire.

A local reporter contacted by Reuters said the building had six or seven stories filled with small shops selling clothing and other products.

The reporter said the fire started in the basement.

An official at the city’s Fourth People’s Hospital, where many of the injured were taken, said most of victims had died from smoke inhalation.

It was one of the deadliest fires of its kind in China over the past decade.

In December 1994, 323 people, most of them children, were killed in a concert hall fire in the oil town of Karamay in the western region of Xinjiang.

A month earlier, 233 people were killed in a dance hall fire in the northeastern province of Liaoning, many of them crushed to death or asphyxiated inside emergency exits that were chained shut.

China’s worst such fire was in 1977, when 694 people died — 597 of them children — in Xinjiang.

In March 2000, a fire at a suspected pornographic movie theater killed 74 in Henan province.