The blaze set off in the Yingcai School in the rural Fangcheng district in central Henan at around 11pm on Friday and was doused just before midnight after 38 minutes, according to China‘s state broadcaster CCTV.
All of the victims were pupils and they were third-graders, about nine years old, a teacher told Zonglan News, a state-backed media outlet from Hebei province.
One person was found injured. After the rescue, he was taken to a hospital for treatment.
No additional information regarding the identities of the deceased or the cause of the fire has been confirmed by authorities.
A business owner near the school said the flames were intense and they heard the cries for help from the students.
“The flames were intense, and the fire and smoke could be seen and smelled from a distance,” he told Beijing Youth Daily. “The cries for help from the students could be heard, and fire engines and ambulances were quickly on the scene.”
The boarding school primarily serves students in the elementary grades, with an attached kindergarten, according to the school’s WeChat page.
Many of the pupils in the boarding school come from rural areas.
Huge fires in China have remained an issue for the government due to lax enforcement of safety standards and violations of laws.
In November 2023, at least 26 people died after a huge fire swept through an office building in Luliang City, Shanxi province. It was a four-storey building of the Yongju Coal Industry Joint Building.
It was a month after 31 people died in an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in northwestern China that prompted a nationwide campaign to promote workplace safety.
Another fire in April last year in a hospital in Beijing killed at least 29 people, mostly patients. More than 12 people were detained by police during the investigation.