Police have detained four brothers who owned an illegally run bar where a Christmas Day fire killed 26 people in a Chinese city near Hong Kong, news reports said Tuesday. The bar in the southern city of Zhongshan lacked fire extinguishers and its emergency exit was too narrow, the official Xinhua News Agency and newspapers reported. Its owners, brothers Lin Hanwen, Lin Hanlong, Lin Hanzhong and Lin Hanwu, have been detained, the news reports said. They said Lin Hanwu was being treated for injuries received in the fire. More than 100 people were in the bar in the Tandao Western Restaurant when the fire broke out at 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Sunday night, the reports said. The government says the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Zhongshan, which abuts the former Portuguese colony of Macau west of Hong Kong, is part of the booming Pearl River Delta region around Hong Kong whose factories form the heart of China's export-driven manufacturing industries. Witnesses quoted by Hong Kong Cable TV said there was an explosion before the fire. Many of the injured suffered severe burns and were sent to a local hospital, the station said.
Chinese state television showed firefighters wading through the charred ruins of the bar. Stools were burned and overturned and much of the ceiling had collapsed. It was the second time in five years that China has suffered a deadly Christmas Day fire. In 2000, a fire blamed on a welding accident tore through a disco in the central city of Luoyang, killing 309 people who were celebrating the holiday. A court sentenced 23 people held responsible for the disaster to up to 13 years in prison. Angry residents staged a march in Luoyang and some protested in Beijing, demanding the prosecution of local safety officials, reports the AP. I.L.