18 dead in China karaoke lounge fire, arson suspect detained

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-storey building in Yingde, a town within Qingyuan City in 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 Qingyuan public security department 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 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 centres featuring booths where people can sit and sing their favourite songs.

Deadly fires are common in China, where safety regulations are widely flouted and enforcement is often lax.

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