At least 18 people were killed when a deadly fire tore through a martial arts school in central China early Friday morning, with many of the victims believed to be children who were training and living on campus, state media outlets reported.
The tragedy took place in Henan province, home to kung fu training camps, and birthplace of the famous Shaolin Temple and Chinese martial arts.
The blaze reportedly started around 3am. On the Zhecheng county website, officials said the fire was extinguished but did not address how it started.
Chinese state media outlets reported that 16 people were in the hospital, with four in “serious condition.” The person managing the institute has been detained by police, according to reports.
Information about the incident and the victims was still scant hours after the fire was put out. Agence France-Presse reported that the institute was called the Zhenxing Martial Arts Centre.
One frantic father who spoke to Reuters said that he was unable to contact his nine-year-old son who went to the school and was admitted to the hospital. “I know nothing about his current situation,” the man who identified himself as Zheng, said in a phone call.
“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.”
The fire on Friday was the latest of a series of tragic mishaps in China, plagued by patchy safety protocols and poor construction.
One of China’s most horrific fires took place on Christmas day in 2000 in Henan province when 309 people were killed in a nightclub fire.
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