Local officials launched an investigation on Wednesday after a fire swept through a hospital in Beijing, China's capital, killing at least 21 people and leaving an unknown number missing, according to local media.
Tuesday at 1 pm local time, the Communist Party-run Beijing Daily reported that a fire had broken out at the Beijing Changfeng Hospital in the capital's Fengtai District.
The fire was extinguished approximately 30 minutes later, and rescue efforts continued for another two hours, during which 71 patients were evacuated to a different location, according to the report.
Tuesday, social media users posted videos of individuals seated on external air conditioning units and others dangling from ropes as they leaped from the building.
The newspaper reported that the fatality toll stood at 21 as of Wednesday morning.
There were no additional details regarding the number of injuries sustained in the fire or the condition of the victims.
According to the Beijing Daily, officials visited the hospital shortly after the incident, with Beijing party secretary Yin Li promising to "quickly identify the cause of the accident and hold the responsible parties accountable."
Wednesday, AFP journalists observed dozens of observers outside the hospital's entrance, where many police officers were stationed to discourage photography.
From the entrance of the hospital's compound, there was no visible damage to the structures.
It was not immediately apparent whether all of the hospital's occupants had been located and evacuated from the fire in the inpatient department of the private hospital's east building.
The China Youth Daily reported in a separate article on Wednesday that many patients' family members had lost contact with them, with most of the missing being elderly persons with mobility problems.
The Beijing Changfeng Hospital is situated in the western urban area of the capital, approximately 25 minutes by vehicle from Tiananmen Square.
According to AFP, fatal fires are prevalent in China due to lax safety regulations and enforcement.
In November, a fire at an apartment complex in China's northwestern Xinjiang resulted in the deaths of ten people, prompting protests against Covid-19 lockdowns blamed for impeding rescue efforts.
Also in November, 38 people were murdered in a factory fire in central China, with authorities blaming illegal welding by workers.