A serious fire broke out at a martial arts gym in Shangqiu, Henan Province, as China was trying to create a positive atmosphere for the centennial of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. Eighteen people were killed and sixteen were injured. All of the victims were children. Parents petitioned the county government to find out the truth, but they were closely monitored by the authorities. It is suspected that human factors were involved in the fire disaster that resulted in serious casualties. The secretary and governor of Zhecheng County have reportedly been removed from their posts.
A parent, pseudonym Mr. Wang, lost his daughter in the blaze. He and dozens of family members marched to the front of the Tsuge County government on Saturday (26) to demand that authorities find out the truth. A large number of security guards were present to confront the families.
Mr. Wang: “Pulled a banner, it says ‘to see people alive, to see the body’. At that time they also blocked. Some parents and police also clashed, and then we came to the entrance of the county government, where we squatted and talked to government officials.”
All of those who lost their lives in the fire were children, ranging in age from seven to fourteen years old. Some parents were emotional after identifying the bodies.
The parent, who goes by the pseudonym Miss Li, described the remains of her 13-year-old son as horrific.
Ms. Li: “The child is burned beyond recognition. The remains are shrunken to a piece, are deformed, the whole body is burnt, now want to know the cause of the incident.”
The “Zhenxing International Fight Club” is located in Zhecheng County, a number of students are boarding students in order to receive closed training. The fire started on the first floor of the martial arts school in the early hours of Friday morning, it is estimated that there are more than thirty students in the school, concentrated on the second floor to sleep, the cause of the fire is suspected to be related to aging electrical wiring.
The founder and chief instructor of the martial arts school surnamed Chen usually lives in the martial arts school, but he and his wife were not at the scene when the incident occurred.
The martial arts school to prevent students from escaping at night locked
It is understood that the second floor of the martial arts school is usually locked at night, so as to avoid the random entry and exit of schoolchildren, but also therefore prevented the escape. Most of the schoolchildren who survived the fire jumped down directly from the second floor.
A fire separated Mr. Wang from his 13-year-old daughter, and his 10-year-old son had half of his skin burned. He is upset and believes serious injuries could have been avoided.
Mr. Wang: “I don’t know how the fire started. What’s most infuriating, what’s most infuriating, is that the child didn’t run out. The door was locked and there was no escape route. We are also guessing that he (the operator) locked the door, presumably for fear of naughty children running out to play. Children can not run out, (survivors) are jumping out of the window.”
It is understood that the local government is negotiating with the parents on the issue of compensation.
Mr. Wang: “I haven’t talked to the government so far because my son is still in the hospital and I don’t know if he’s dead or alive, and one parent is said to have talked to the government. I heard that the government will only pay 800,000, the same for the big and small ones. I don’t care much about money. It’s okay if he doesn’t pay. I just want my son to live.”
The local government arranged for the parents of the students killed to stay in different hotels. Mr. Wang said that each of the families of the victims is in charge of negotiating the aftermath by different government officials. The hotel has a large number of plainclothes people monitoring the parents.
Mr. Wang: “It does not allow me to meet with other families of the victims. I personally can’t get down now. I’ve been restricted from traveling now. It doesn’t let me run around, it doesn’t let me go out of the hotel. There are five or six (plainclothes) at the staircase, and there are also downstairs. I forced my way outside and they pushed me back in. I am now very angry with their arrangement. He should not have restricted my personal freedom.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently instructed officials at all levels to comprehensively check all kinds of safety hazards and prevent major emergencies to create a good atmosphere for the party’s centennial. The county party secretary and the county governor have reportedly been removed from their posts following a martial arts gym fire in Zhecheng County.