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Chinese leaders order rest home fire response

Updated: May 26,2015 3:07 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Chinese leaders on May 26 ordered “all-out efforts” to treat the injured, comfort families of the dead and “properly handle” the aftermath of a fire at a rest home in Central China’s Henan province.

President Xi Jinping demanded a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire, which killed 38 people and injured six others on May 25, and that investigators pursue the liabilities of those responsible.

Xi asked health and safety departments nationwide to “bear in mind safety management”, check for and remove hidden dangers, and implement safety measures, in order to limit accidents.

Premier Li Keqiang also gave instructions, urging utmost efforts to save victims and appease their family members.

Li urged officials to draw lessons from the accident, checking all potential safety hazards to avoid similar incidents.

The Ministry of Public Affairs and the State Administration of Work Safety immediately sent work groups to the site, where a rescue and relief operation is still in progress.

The fire occurred at the privately-owned Kangleyuan Rest Home in Lushan county, Pingdingshan city. The complex is home to 51 senior citizens.

The six injured, two of whom are in serious conditions, have been hospitalized, local authorities said.

Relatives of some of the home’s residents told Xinhua that the identification of their family members was very difficult. “The bodies were so badly burned, we couldn’t tell who was who,” said one.

The rest home project was approved by local civil affairs authorities in late 2010. Located in the county seat of Lushan, it covers an area of two hectares and has a floor space of 600 square meters.

China is facing grave challenges in caring for its rapidly aging population, which accounted for 15.5 percent of the total population by the end of 2014.