18 dead in China karaoke lounge fire, arson suspect detained

Karaoke is a popular activity in China, with even shopping centers featuring booths where people can sit and sing their favorite songs. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2018
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18 dead in China karaoke lounge fire, arson suspect detained

  • Karaoke is a popular activity in China, with even shopping centers featuring booths where people can sit and sing their favorite songs
BEIJING: A fire tore through a karaoke lounge in southern China on Tuesday, killing 18 people and injuring another five, as authorities arrested an arson suspect who had reportedly blocked the entrance with a motorcycle.
The fire started after midnight in a three-story building in Yingde, Guangdong province, and was put out shortly before 1:00 am local time, according to the police.
A preliminary investigation found that it was caused by arson, the public security department in Qingyuan city, which oversees Yingde, said on its Weibo social media account.
The suspect got into an argument, then used a motorcycle to block the building’s door and lit the fire, state broadcaster CCTV said, adding that he was on the lam.
Police said the suspect was captured in a village district, shortly after authorities offered a 200,000-yuan ($32,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of a man identified as a 32-year-old with burn marks on his hips.
The official Xinhua news agency, citing the city government, said the suspect, identified as Liu Chunlu, confessed after he was arrested at his home.
“I was drunk last night and had had a fight with unknown people (before the fire),” Liu told police, according to Xinhua.
The police statement did not describe the location of the fire but state media said it occurred in a small KTV house, or karaoke lounge.
Unverified videos from the scene posted by local media show flames leaping from the building on a tree-lined street at night, with fire trucks and a crowd of onlookers on the road.
The five injured people are receiving treatment in a hospital, state TV said.
Karaoke is a popular activity in China, with even shopping centers featuring booths where people can sit and sing their favorite songs.
Larger KTV lounges proliferate as well, often spanning across multiple floors in a building, with narrow corridors linking dozens of individual rooms together.
The lounge where the fire occurred was smaller, with only one corridor for entry and exit, state TV said.
Merrymakers often go for a buffet dinner and sing and drink with a small group of friends in the private rooms late into the night.
Deadly fires are common in China, where safety regulations are widely flouted and enforcement is often lax.


‘Nut rage’ Korean Air heiress questioned over illegal Filipino maids

Updated 4 min 38 sec ago
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‘Nut rage’ Korean Air heiress questioned over illegal Filipino maids

SEOUL: A Korean Air heiress known for a “nut rage” tantrum that sparked national uproar was summoned for questioning Thursday for illegally hiring immigrants to work as maids, the latest scandal to engulf her billionaire family.
Cho Hyun-ah kept her head bowed as she reported to immigration authorities in Seoul on Thursday.
“I’m sorry to cause trouble,” she said in a quiet voice before entering the office.
She faces allegations that she illegally hired some 10 Filipinos to work as housemaids in the family home by disguising them as company trainees to obtain visas.
It is against the law in South Korea to hire foreigners as domestic helpers.
A series of scandals have left Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho and his family facing mounting scrutiny over a spate of alleged wrongdoings that have riled the public and even sparked protests by the firm’s employees.
The family first shot to international infamy in 2014 when Cho Hyun-ah forced two Korean Air flight attendants to kneel and beg for forgiveness after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a bowl.
She ordered the Seoul-bound flight back to the gate so one of them could be ejected in an incident quickly dubbed “nut rage” that many South Koreans felt typified the way ultra-wealthy families often behave.
She was sentenced to a year in prison by a lower court. But after serving five months in jail she was was freed when the appeals court cleared her of hampering an air route — the most serious charge — as the aircraft was still on the ground.
Her younger sister Cho Hyun-min recently won unflattering headlines with her own tantrum when she allegedly splashed fruit juice over a business associate in a fit of rage.
Prosecutors stopped short of bringing charges against her after the victim reconciled with her.
But the incident set off a flurry of new allegations about the family’s other alleged wrongdoings.
Among the allegations authorities are now investigating include smuggling of furniture and food, tax evasion, hiring of illegals and verbal abuse and assaults against employees.
Korean Air workers launched an online chat room detailing various grievances they had with the family.
On Friday some employees will hold their fourth weekly rally calling for Cho family to take a back seat in the company.
Police have also summoned the chairman Cho’s wife Lee Myung-hee for questioning on Monday after more than ten people claimed they had been physically or verbally assaulted by her.
Lee is also suspected of involvement in the illegal hiring of foreign maids and will be questioned in this case as well, the immigration office said.