Relatives blame “metal foam houses” for China rest home deaths

Beijing (dpa) – Relatives of two people who died in a fire that killed dozens at a retirement home in central China blamed poor quality housing for many deaths Tuesday.

At least 38 people died and six others were injured in the blaze in Pingdingshan City in Henan province late Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Two of the injured were reported to be in serious condition.

Images from after the blaze on state television showed a pile of the houses’ blackened metal frames.

At least 10 residences in the Kangleyuan rest home have been destroyed and search and rescue work was under way as of Tuesday morning, according to Xinhua.

Known as “metal foam houses,” the small buildings had metal frames insulated with highly flammable foam, Xinhua reported.

“Those metal foam houses’ quality are very bad … they caught fire easily,” said Liu Liyuan, a university student whose grandmother died in the fire.

“There were 12-20 old people living in each room. My grandmother’s room had 12 people living in it and they are all dead,” Liu told dpa.

There was no official indication of what caused the fire in the privately run home, which houses more than 160 elderly people.

Liu and Chen Zhiyuan, a relative of another resident at the home, accused authorities of downplaying the death toll.

Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire.

He ordered “all-out efforts” to treat the injured, and comfort families of the dead, Xinhua cited him as saying.

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