BEIJING (Reuters) - A fire at an aged care home in China’s central Henan province killed 38 people, state media said, the latest disaster in a country with a poor record on work safety.
The fire broke out late on Monday at a private nursing home in Lushan county, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday, citing local authorities.
The cause of the fire, which injured six people, was unclear, Xinhua said. Authorities had taken 12 people into custody and were searching for another three, the news agency said, adding that rescue efforts were ongoing.
Underscoring the gravity of the incident, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged officials to “identify the cause of the accident and pursue culpability in accordance with the law”, Xinhua said.
Xi called on all regions and departments to “resolutely prevent and curb all kinds of accidents from happening”.
China has a history of similar disasters. Workers are often poorly trained or ill-equipped to protect themselves from accidents.
A fire at a warehouse in Guangdong province killed at least 17 people in February, and a blaze at a poultry slaughterhouse in the northeastern province of Jilin in 2013 killed 120 people.
The average age is rising in China, the world’s most populous country, and demographers have said government limits on family size threaten the future of the economy as fewer people are left to pay and care for a greying population.
One in four Chinese will be older than 60 by 2030, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Reporting by Michael Martina, Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie