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51 Reportedly Die After China Club Is Swept by Fire

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Fire swept through a northwest China karaoke club and theater that had ignored orders to shut down last week, killing 51 people and injuring an undetermined number of others, an official said Tuesday.

The fire broke out early Monday at the club in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, an official at the regional foreign affairs office said.

A report Tuesday in the Legal Daily newspaper quoted police and fire officials as saying that club exits were blocked or too narrow, preventing the victims from escaping.

An unknown number of injured were hospitalized, said the regional official, who requested anonymity.

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No children were among the casualties, nor were foreigners reported killed or injured.

On Friday, authorities ordered the club closed because its manager, Huang Lixin, had not obtained permission to open a business there. But Huang reportedly ignored the order.

“Of course we will prosecute him,” one official said.

It was the latest in a series of fires that have ravaged dance halls, cinemas and other gathering places, leading the government to announce a fire-prevention campaign.

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