19 dead as fire guts China spa hotel

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At least 19 people died and another 23 were injured when a fire ripped through a hot springs hotel complex in northeastern China on Saturday, state media said.

The blaze began in the early hours at the hotel and spa in Harbin, capital of the Heilongjiang province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“An area of 400 square metres has been ravaged by the flames and 19 people have died,” the agency said, citing local authorities.

Blackened walls inside the hotel, which is part of a hot springs complex, could be seen in footage released by state broadcaster CCTV.

Images from the scene showed rooms littered with broken glass and twisted metal structures, with parts of the ceiling hanging down precariously in places.

The injured were suffering from burns or toxic smoke inhalation, CCTV said, indicating an investigation had been opened into the cause of the fire.

Xinhua said the hotel's owner had been detained for questioning by police.

Deadly fires are common in China where fire security regulations are frequently neglected.

In April, 18 people were killed and five more injured in a fire at a karaoke establishment in the country's south.

And in November, a fire left 19 people dead and eight injured at a boarding house in Beijing.

In 2015, another 38 people died following a fire at a retirement home in central Henan province.

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