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Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 04:56 GMT
Dozens die in China hospital fire
Fire burns at City Central Hospital in Liaoyang city, northeast China's Jilin Province, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005.
Almost all of the dead were patients
A fire at a large hospital in China's north-eastern city of Liaoyuan has killed at least 39 people, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.

At least 33 of the victims were patients, the agency said.

Witnesses quoted by Xinhua said they saw people leaping from windows to escape the blazing buildings.

China has had several industrial accidents in the last month, including a toxic river spillage and a coal mine fire that killed more than 140 people.

The highly dangerous chemical benzene leaked into a river after an explosion at a factory in November, prompting the army to bring in emergency water supplies for the city of Harbin.

The recent fire in the mine in Heilongjiang province prompted calls for more stringent inspections of the conditions inside such facilities.

The hospital fire is said to have broken out at roughly 1630 local time (0830 GMT) in Liaoyuan city, which lies some 120 km south-west of Changchun, capital of Jilin province.

A government official quoted by Xinhua said 24 bodies were found at the scene of the blaze, while another 15 people died after being evacuated to other hospitals.

Witnesses said that some people were forced to leap from the burning hospital after rescuers failed to reach them.

"I saw people jumping out of the window and many of them got injured. I'm sorry I could not do anything to help," one witness was quoted as saying.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

More than 2,000 people died as a result of fires in China in the first 11 months of this year.

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