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Police detain Harbin hotel fire suspect

Writer:   |  Editor: Lily A  |  From:   |  Updated: 2018-08-31

The public security bureau in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, seized a female suspect Thursday in connection with a hotel fire that killed 20 people.

Police offered a reward of up to 300,000 yuan (US$44,000) for information that assists in finding Li Yanbin, 52, a native of Harbin.

It provided no details about her alleged connection with the fire Saturday.

Meanwhile, Beijing Jiufangyuyue Commercial and Trading Co. confirmed the identities of the 20 people killed in the blaze.

“All the victims were members of a tour group we organized, consisting of three staff members and 88 seniors,” Zhao Chunlan, the legal representative of the company, was quoted as saying in China Newsweek. “The 12 female and eight male victims are all Beijing residents, aged 59 to 85.”

The 10-day trip, starting from Beijing on Aug. 16, should have concluded Saturday in Harbin, the final destination. The tourists spent the first five days in Daqing and Wudalianchi and arrived in Harbin on Aug. 21.

The blaze at the four-story Beilong Hot Spring Hotel started at 4:36 a.m. and was extinguished by 7:50 a.m., after firefighters evacuated more than 80 people and rescued 20 others who had been trapped.

The firefighters found 19 bodies.

Twenty-four people who were injured, including firefighters, were sent to the hospital. One of those injured died while undergoing treatment.

The tour company’s business scope included food marketing, healthcare products, household electrical appliances, clothing, shoes, hats and fresh fruits and vegetables on top of its tourism consultation, a feature added in August 2017, according to the website of the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce.

“The customers are awarded tour days when they buy the recharge card for our commodities — 60 days for a 19,000-yuan card, and 90 days for 29,000-yuan card,” Zhao said. “We will also design tour routes on demand for customers.”

“The group lived in a hotel in the center of the city for the first several days and moved to the hot springs hotel in Songbei district for the final night,” Zhao said. “They enjoyed a bath in the hot spring after visiting an indoor ice and snow park near the hotel.”

According to the provincial fire department’s website, the hotel, which opened in 2015, had failed to pass four fire safety inspections since December.

Police have detained the legal representative of the hotel, Zhang Weiping, 46. Officials are also looking into the cause of the fire.

(China Daily)