Orphans in govt custody after C China fire

Updated: 2013-01-05 14:23


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ZHENGZHOU -- Ten children are in government custody following a fatal fire that destroyed the children's home, an unregistered orphanage, in Central China's Henan province on Friday.

Orphans in govt custody after C China fire

Yuan Lihai (center), the owner of the orphanage, tells firemen about the fire that broke out in the orphanage in Lankao county, Henan province on Jan 4. [Xiang Mingchao/Asianewsphoto]

The civil affairs bureau of Lankao county said the children had been living with a woman named Yuan Lihai, who is believed to have been operating an unregistered orphanage out of her home.

Bureau official Li Meijiao said two of the children are in the care of the child welfare agency of the city of Kaifeng, while the other eight children have been given shelter at a county rescue center.

"Authorities are looking for other options to take care of the children, as the rescue station was designed as a shelter for the homeless, mainly adults. It lacks facilities and services to take care of children," said Li.

Li said there is no child welfare agency in Lankao county.

Yuan is a 48-year-old widow who has taken care of orphans and abandoned children since 1986, using money earned from working as a street vendor to provide for them.

Local civil affairs officials said both Yuan and the children refused to separate when civil affairs personnel asked Yuan to send the children to government rescue shelters in 2011.

The officials said Yuan had 34 orphans and abandoned children living with her before the fire, including 16 with disabilities or congenital diseases. A few of her charges were adults, including a 20-year-old man who perished in the fire.

Yuan took the older children to school on Friday, leaving the younger ones and disabled children at home.

The fire struck Yuan's home later that day, killing four people at the scene. Another three children lost their lives while being taken to a local hospital.

One child is in intensive care at the No 2 Hospital in Kaifeng, which administrates Lankao county.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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