Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Fire, flood kill 95 people in China

AP , BEIJING

A torrential flood hit a school in northeast China and swept 64 people to their deaths, while a fire in the country's south raced through the top floors of a hotel and killed 31, state media reported yesterday.

Authorities in Beijing were struggling to handle the twin tragedies thousands of kilometers apart, and trying to overcome faulty communication in the flood zone and vowing to dispatch an emergency team of investigators to the hotel fire.

Friday's flash flood inundated a school in Shalan, a remote town in far northeastern Heilongjiang Province, claiming the lives of 62 students and two villagers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

TORRENT OF WATER

Some 352 students -- all between 6 and 14 years old -- and 31 teachers were in the school when it was slammed by a torrent of water from heavy rains gushing down a mountain, the agency said.

Information was slowly trickling out of Shalan more than a day after the flood.

Initial reports said that 29 people were killed, and authorities later announced the dramatically higher death toll yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, in China's far south, a fire engulfed the top three floors of a hotel, killing 31 people, state media said.

The fire broke out at noon on Friday at the Huanan Hotel in Shantou, a city in Guangdong Province, and swept through the top stories of the four-story building, the reports said.

more bodies

Early dispatches said five people had died, but rescuers found more bodies when they entered the hotel after putting out the fire, Xinhua said. Another 15 people were injured, four of them seriously, the agency said.

It wasn't clear how many people were in the hotel at the time of the blaze, which took three hours to extinguish.

Images on television showed the neighborhood shrouded in heavy gray smoke, and still photographs showed firefighters removing tanks of cooking gas from the hotel.

A firefighter reached by phone yesterday said the cause was still under investigation.

Huanan Hotel is managed by a Hong Kong company, Xinhua said.

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