BEIJING: A nine-year-old boy has been detained after a shopping mall inferno that killed 17 people in China, police said Friday, the latest deadly accident in a country where safety standards are often flouted.
The fire broke out Thursday on the top floor of a four-storey building in Huidong, in the city of Huizhou in the southern province of Guangdong, the local government said.
Rescue efforts took 18 hours and 17 people died, the Huidong government said on its verified account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
Huizhou police said on its Weibo account that “the fire was caused by a boy playing with fire at the mall,” adding that the nine-year-old suspect had been fiddling with a “lighter”.
A total of 270 firefighters and 45 fire engines were mobilised to extinguish the blaze, it added. The fire broke out in a warehouse facility, reports said.
China has a dismal industrial safety record as some property and business owners evade regulations to save money and pay off corrupt officials to look the other way.
A fire at a poultry plant in the northeast of the country killed 119 people in 2013.
Reports at the time said that managers had locked doors inside the factory to prevent workers from going to the toilet, leading to the high death toll.