By Tom Bannister
Six children and one young adult have died in a fire that swept through an illegal orphanage on Friday morning. All of those killed were orphans or abandoned children living in an orphanage in Lankao county in Henan province. It was an unofficial orphanage, not registered with the government, that took up just two rooms of a private house.
There were eight people in the two rooms when the fire broke out, four died at the scene, three died in hospital and one is still receiving treatment. The cause of the fire is not yet known and local officials have launched an investigation.
The orphanage was ran by a local 48-year-old woman Yuan Lihai, who took on the task of helping out of orphaned and abandoned children. 34 children in total were taken into her care, living out of the house that burned down and another one nearby. Many of the children were physically disabled or suffered from mental illnesses.
Xinhua reports that Yuan’s actions were illegal and that local government officials had previously taken children away from her care in 2011.
[Update 1] Chinese local government officials have admitted that their lax regulation of unlicensed childcare facilities was partly to blame for the fire. One government official said: “There is a direct relationship between today’s situation and the fact that some related government departments failed to enforce supervision and loosened management on purpose“.