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18 killed in karaoke club fire


BEIJING: A fire tore through a karaoke lounge in southern China, killing 18 people and injuring another five, as authorities arrested an arson suspect who had reportedly blocked the entrance with a motorcycle.

The fire started after midnight in a three-storey building in Yingde, a town within Qingyuan City in Guangdong province, and was put out shortly before 1am local time, according to the police.

A preliminary investigation found that it was caused by arson, the Qingyuan public security department said on its Weibo social media account.

The suspect got into an argument, then used a motorcycle to block the building’s door and lit the fire, state broadcaster CCTV said, adding that he was on the lam.

Police said the suspect was captured in a village district, shortly after authorities offered a 200,000 yuan (RM123,850) reward for information leading to the arrest of a man identified as a 32-year-old with burn marks on his hips.

The police statement did not describe the location of the fire but state media said it occurred in a small KTV house, or karaoke lounge.

Unverified videos from the scene posted by local media show flames leaping from the building on a tree-lined street at night, with fire trucks and a crowd of onlookers on the road.

The five injured people are receiving treatment in a hospital, state TV said.

Karaoke is a popular activity in China, with even shopping centres featuring booths where people can sit and sing their favourite songs.

Larger KTV lounges proliferate as well, often spanning across multiple floors in a building, with narrow corridors linking dozens of individual rooms together.

The lounge where the fire occurred was smaller, with only one corridor for entry and exit, state TV said.

Merrymakers often go for a buffet dinner and sing and drink with a small group of friends in the private rooms late into the night. — AFP

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