At least 21 people have died after a fire broke out in the east wing of the inpatient department of a hospital in Beijing on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of dozens, Chinese state media reported. The fire started at 12: 57 and was extinguished by 1:33 pm. By that time several people had already died. Some of the victims, including patients, died at a local hospital.
Videos of the fire that have been going viral on social media show the building engulfed in black smoke as people are seen scrambling to escape through the windows using what appear to be improvised ropes made of bedsheets. A total of 71 people were evacuated and transferred after the rescue work.
Flames and Smoke
Harrowing videos show people trying to escape the fire through the windows. Others can be seen taking refuge atop the air conditioners that were placed outside the windows.
On one level of the structure, a woman is seen clambering to the end of a bedsheet and leaping from a height onto a different roof, where others have already gathered.
Emergency response teams first learned that a fire had started at the hospital in the Fengtai District of the nation's capital just before 1pm local time.
The fire was put out in just 30 minutes, but rescue operations lasted for another two hours. The death toll stood at 21 around 6 pm, according to news reports.
According to state media, the fire has been completely extinguished, all rescue efforts have been done, and an investigation is being conducted to determine what caused it.
It wasn't immediately clear if all of the occupants of the hospital have been found and evacuated.
The victims were transferred to another unidentified hospital for emergency care before the deaths were officially reported, according to the report.
No other information was given regarding the number of injuries sustained in the fire or their state.
"It's tragic. I can see the accident from the window of my house. A lot of people were standing on the air conditioning unit at noon, and some even jumped off," said a Weibo netizen, Reuters reported.
This was consistent with at least two videos online that were shot from different structures and showed the hospital's gloomy structure.
Beijing Changfeng Hospital in the western part of Beijing, about 25 minutes' drive from Tiananmen Square.
Although hospitals fires are uncommon in China, the cause of the blaze that occurred at Changfeng Hospital is still under investigation.
The deadly fire comes after 38 people died in a factory fire in central China last year. The fire allegedly broke out because workers were using unauthorized wadding. On November 21, Henan Province's Anyang City experienced a plant fire, according to a report from the news agency Xinhua.
Four days later, a fire destroyed an apartment building in Xinjiang, killing 10, while two months back, a skyscraper in Changsha was completely destroyed by fire.