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.


Sri Lanka’s former PM Wickremesinghe to return to post

Updated 36 min 38 sec ago
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Sri Lanka’s former PM Wickremesinghe to return to post

  • The South Asian island country had plunged into instability after President Maithripala Sirisena replaced Wickremesinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa
  • An official at the president’s office confirmed Wickremesinghe’s oath taking

COLOMBO: Ranil Wickremesinghe will return as Sri Lankan prime minister on Sunday, a lawmaker from his party and an official at the president’s office said, likely ending a political crisis that began in late October when he was surprisingly ousted.
Wickremesinghe’s comeback is an embarrassment for President Maithripala Sirisena, who replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa following differences over policy making and other issues.
However, Rajapaksa failed to win a parliamentary majority and resigned on Saturday as a government shutdown loomed.
“He will take the oath at an auspicious time today,” Rajitha Senaratne, a Cabinet spokesman under Wickremesinghe’s former government, told Reuters.
An official at the president’s office confirmed that Wickremesinghe would be sworn in, which should help achieve parliamentary approval for a temporary budget that is required by Jan. 1.
The South Asian island country’s parliament voted to cut the budget for Rajapaksa and his ministers after Sirisena refused to accept no-confidence votes against Rajapaksa, saying that due process was not followed.
Parliament has already passed a confidence vote in Wickremesinghe while it sought his reinstatement as prime minister to defuse a constitutional crisis.
On Friday, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court rejected Rajapaksa’s bid for an injunction against a lower court’s order that barred him and his Cabinet from performing their roles.
Many foreign countries refused to recognize Rajapaksa’s government. Credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded Sri Lanka, citing refinancing risks and an uncertain policy outlook.
Sirisena came to power in 2015 on a pledge to uphold democracy and stamp out corruption. However, his popularity has been hit by a crisis many say he triggered because of personal differences with Wickremesinghe.