A fire has swept through a shopping centre in central China and trapped construction workers and revellers at a Christmas dance party, killing as many as 309 people, state media report. Rescuers have pulled out 80 bodies so far six hours after the fire broke out Monday night in the four-story building in Luoyang city, which housed a supermarket, shops and a disco, the Luoyang Evening News' Web site said. The government's Xinhua News Agency reported 309 dead. It said at least 200 people were in a disco on the top floor when the fire struck, and construction workers were on the building's second and third floors. A police officer in Luoyang's Laocheng district, where the fire occurred, disputed the death toll, saying only about 80 were known to have died. The officer, who refused to give his name, said the fire's cause was still under investigation. But provincial television said construction work may have caused the fire. City government and fire officials refused to answer questions, AP news agency reports. The fire broke out in the cultural heart of Luoyang, an ancient city on the Yellow River in Henan province that was China's capital off and on until a thousand years ago. Henan is China's most populous province and its cities have undergone rapid growth. In March, a fire in a cinema in the city of Jiaozuo killed 74 people, among them migrant workers who were using the movie hall as a place to sleep. China has seen a string of such deadly accidents, which are often blamed on a lack of safety regulations and enforcement.
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