China hospital fire kills 29, public outrage at attempt to hush it up

There is public outrage in China as the authorities seemingly tried to suppress news of a hospital fire in Beijing that has killed at least 29 people.

A social media video grab shows a person desperately climbing down from a hospital window using a bed sheet. Source: Viral video

The fire at the Changfeng Hospital in Fengtai district, Beijing, started around 1pm on Tuesday, but the state media did not mention it, and any Internet news about it appeared to have been censored. City residents only came to know about the fire from a few social network posts on Tuesday night. They expressed their anger online at being kept in the dark about such a disaster.

The fire tore through an inpatient building, forcing people to try and escape through the windows and sit precariously on the air-conditioning units mounted outside the windows. Some people climbed out and then climbed down using bedsheets as rope. But at least 29 people could not escape death.

It was only yesterday that a trickle of information started coming from official agencies. Yesterday, Beijing officials held a very short news conference, lasting just 20 minutes, about the fire. Zhao Yang, a Beijing’s fire department official, said yesterday that the blaze was caused by sparks from interior renovation work that ignited flammable paint.

Smoke rising from the burning hospital building. Source: Viral video

According to Sun Haitao, a Beijing Public Security Bureau official, 12 people, including the hospital director and some of the construction workers, were detained on suspicion of gross negligence.