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Seven die in Henan orphanage fire


A staff member inspects the fire accident site in Lankao county, Central China's Henan province, Jan. 4, 2013.  Photo: Xinhua

Yuan Lihai, the owner of the adoptive family family home which was caught suffering from in the fire accident, is investigated at the fire accident site in Lankao County, central China's Henan Province, Jan. 4, 2013. A spokesman for the Lankao county government said the fire, which broke out around 8:30 a.m., was contained within two hours. Four children died at the scene of the fire, while another three perished on their way to a local hospital. The house is apparently a private orphanage, which the as local residents said a woman named Yuan Lihai has used the home to provide shelter to orphans and abandoned children. Photo: Xinhua

A staff member inspects the fire accident site in Lankao County, central China's Henan Province, Jan. 4, 2013. Photo: Xinhua

Six children and an adult died in a fire that broke out on Friday in a privately run orphanage in cCentral China's Henan province.

The blaze engulfed the house in Lankao, where Yuan Lihai, 48, a local villager, looked after the abandoned children she had taken in over the years.

Four children died at the scene, while the other three victims died on their way to a hospital. One of the victims was a man in his 20s with infantile paralysis, an acute, viral infectious disease. The other six — four boys and two girls — were all under 6 years old, with the youngest only 6 months, the Lankao publicity department said in a statement.

An injured child, with respiratory problemssystem and skin burns, is still in an intensive care unit.

The fire, which broke out at about 8:30 am, was contained within two hours. An investigation into the cause is under way.

It is not known how many children were in the house when the fire broke out, but orphans and abandoned children who survived are expected to receive care and accommodation from the local governments.

The civil affairs bureau in Lankao county pledged in a statement to provide accommodation for survivors.

The county's public security bureau said Friday evening that Yuan was in custody. She was taking several children to school when the fire broke out.

Yuan, a street vendor, began to adopt children from 1986 and had adopted over 100 children by last year. Many had grown into moved on as adults but around 39 children still live with Yuan across four properties.

Her story made her a well-known and appreciated public figure, despite lingering doubts about her capacity to take care of so many children and her use of the kids to collect money from the government and private donors.

On Friday, Li Meijiao, vice chief of the civil affairs bureau of Lankao, said that the bureau will take measures to improve the living conditions of the orphans adopted by Yuan, according to the local news website

According to a law on about children adoption enacted in 1991, an individual can adopt only one child. But the law doesn’t stipulate the number of orphans and handicapped children one can adopt, which allowedenables Yuan to take in a dozens of orphans without any permissionlicense, Lankao Civil Affairs Bureau chief Yang Peimin told the Beijing News.

“We talked to Yuan a few years ago and dissuaded her from taking in children any more. Some children were sent to the welfare house in Kaifeng, but those who developed a close bond with Yuan wouldn’t leave her. Since we don’t have law enforcement power, we could only advise her,” said Yang.

After the fire, two of Yuan’s adopted children were sent to the Kaifeng welfare house and eight were sent to a county relief station, Yang said.

The local government will also work with various groups to set up temporary sheltersliving sites for the rest of the children at in Yuan’s hometaken in, said Li. According to Yuan Lihai, there is no orphanage in Lankao county, so if she doesn’t help, the abandoned kids would just die. To be honest, weI believe what she said. The warm-hearted woman likes children and has been trying to help out, although she also had admitted earlier thatpreviously among all the kids she adopted, nearly 30% had died from mal-nutrition, lack of care and congenital diseases.

Now, seven of them died in the unexpected fire inengulfing her son's house.

Yuan does odd jobs to support “her children” and after a 2005 media report which got her fame, it is generally believed Yuan could also benefit from donations from the society. And later, some media disclosed pictures that could well attest to the fact that “her children” are not quite well taken care of—they seldom get to see their mom (Yuan Lihai) and their residence was as messy as garbage bin.

So, many people, including some local officials jump out to criticized Yuan for being a liar—cheating money from the poor children’s already meager living allowance to prosper her own family.

But maybe we should not forget every coin has two sides and so does every story.
Yuan has already done her best. For so many years, local authorities of Lankao county claimed they did not have plans for setting up an orphanage, so all the orphans and abandoned kids were sent to Yuan, who was were believed by the local people to be as a nice person who would see to the poor children.

She iswas nearly fifty, without a stable job and even stable residence (the two storey house which caught in fire is said to be her son’s property), and she had taken was taken responsibility le to for take ing care of around 30 children, with most of them severely handicapped by congenital diseases.

Now, Yuan has been detained was attained by  some authorities for interrogation. I wonder when all the kids were huddling in the shabby shelter provided by Yuan and her family, and when they were claimed to be ignored by Yuan, what were the authorities doing?

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