18 die in southern China karaoke lounge fire

Building fire in south China, likely arson, kills 18 and injures five

Fire engulfed a karaoke lounge in Southern China today, killing 18 people and injuring another five, as per the state media and police reports.

Police said the fire was caused by arson and that authorities were stepping up investigations.

Police later issued a wanted notice looking for a 32-year old local man, saying he was the prime suspect accused of setting the karaoke parlour ablaze.

China's state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported that the suspect got into an argument with another man, used a motorcycle to block the building's entrance and then lit a fire at the door, according to The New York Times.

By the time they extinguished the fire about 25 minutes later, the karaoke bar was gutted.

Police believe the fire was set deliberately, but ongoing investigations are still under way.

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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.

The five injured people are being treated at a hospital.

Deadly fires are not uncommon in China, where safety regulations are often ignored.

Authorities in Beijing, the capital, launched a 40-day "special operation" targeting fire code and building safety violations after an apartment fire last November killed 19 people, nearly all migrants. Additionally, more than two dozen people were killed in two fires in Beijing's migrant neighborhoods late previous year, the second of which prompted authorities to tear down unsafe buildings in China's capital.

The first blaze, which killed 19 people in November, prompted the authorities to begin tearing down unsafe buildings in the capital, forcing hundreds of thousands of migrants back to their hometowns.

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