Flood slams school in north China, killing 64

Sunday, June 12, 2005

BEIJING-- A torrential flood hit a school in northeast China and swept 64 people -- many of them children -- to their deaths, while a fire in the south raced through the top floors of a hotel and killed 31, state media reported Saturday.

Authorities in Beijing were struggling to handle the twin tragedies thousands of miles apart, trying to overcome faulty communication in the flood zone and vowing to dispatch an emergency team of investigators to the hotel fire.

Friday's flash flood inundated a school in Shalan, a remote town in China's far northeastern province of Heilongjiang. It killed 62 students and two villagers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Some 352 students -- all between 6 and 14 years old -- and 31 teachers were in the school when it was slammed by a torrent of water gushing down a mountain after heavy rains, the agency said.

Initial reports said 29 people were killed. But authorities announced the dramatically higher death toll Saturday afternoon.

In China's far south, a fire engulfed the top three floors of a hotel, killing 31 people, state media said.

The fire broke out at noon Friday at the Huanan Hotel in Shantou, a city in Guangdong province about 180 miles northeast of Hong Kong. It swept through the top stories of the four-story building, the reports said. A firefighter reached by phone Saturday said the cause was still under investigation.

Early dispatches said five people had died, but rescuers found more bodies when they entered the hotel after extinguishing the blaze, Xinhua said.

Fifteen people were injured, including four seriously, it said.

It was not immediately clear how many people were in the hotel at the time of the blaze, which took three hours to extinguish.

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