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Shopping center fire in Jilin kills 53, injures 71
Updated: 2004-02-16 07:45

A sudden raging fire in a four-story bustling shopping mall in Jilin City of northeast China's Jilin Province Sunday noon killed 53 people and injured another 71, police said.

The fire, which is believed to be China's most devastating accident so far this year, started at 11:20 a.m. on the second floor of the city's Zhongbai Shopping Mall where many people were doing their weekend shopping.

Of the 71 injured people, 13 were in critical conditions, while 28 among the dead were male, doctors said.

About 260 firefighters and 60 fire engines were mobilized to fight the fire which was extinguished at about 3:30 p.m.

A special investigation team headed by Sun Huashan, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety, also rushed from Beijing to the fire scene Sunday night.

Senior officials including Wang Yunkun, Party secretary of Jilin, and Hong Hu, the provincial governor, had expressed their concern and called for every effort to rescue those injured.

By 4:30 p.m., 120 people were rescued with rescue workers and firefighters still searching for any survivors.

Preliminary investigation indicated the fire started from a temporary storehouse at the building's rear that nears a boiler room, and local police had summoned 36 people, including the center's security officers and the worker in the boiler room for questioning.

Built in the 1990s, the four-story shopping center at a downtown crossroads linking two major streets accommodates 111 shops and about 120 shopkeepers within an area of some 4,000 square meters.

The first and second floors of the building were for shopping, the third was a bathhouse, the fourth for billiard games and a disco.

Niu Haijun, vice governor, led a team of governmental officials to the site for rescue work and investigation of the cause.

Rescue work and investigation of the cause of the fire still continue.

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