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Beijing Cyber Cafe Fire Kills 24

16 June 2002

BEIJING, CHINA -- As reported by the BBC: ``A fire at a Beijing cyber cafe has killed 24 people and left at least 13 others injured.

``State media said the blaze started at the Lanjisu Cyber Cafe in the early hours of Sunday morning, in the Haidian district of the Chinese capital.

``Firefighters who rushed to the scene managed to rescue 17 people, China Central television reported.

``But iron bars on the window meant there was no hope of escape from the choking, toxic smoke for the other, mainly student, visitors to the cafe.

``The cause of the fire is not yet known.

``...Cheap internet rates late at night are reported to have attracted many students to the cafe, meaning it was still packed when fire broke out at 0230 (1830 GMT on Saturday).

``...The BBC's Beijing correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says there are now reported to be at least 200,000 internet cafes across China, but many are illegal.

``...The cafes are often dimly lit, hidden from view and with heavy doors to deter the authorities - but which can turn them into a death trap in case of fire..."

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