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A fire in a Beijing hospital killed at least 21 people

A fire in a Beijing hospital killed at least 21 people

(CNN) At least 21 people have died in a fire that destroyed a hospital in the Chinese capital, Beijing, state media CCTV reported on Tuesday.

Amateur video shows people hanging from the facade of a building as they try to escape the fire that started around 1 p.m. local time (1 a.m. ET) in what Chinese state media described as the inpatient ward of Chang Feng Hospital.

“As of 6 pm local time (6 am EST), unfortunately, 21 people have died,” CCTV said. In addition, 71 patients were evacuated.

The fire is one of the deadliest in Beijing in recent years, surpassing the death toll from a 2017 fire that killed 19 people in a cramped two-storey building in Daxing District in the capital’s southern suburbs.

The tragedy prompted the authorities to demolish swathes of structures deemed illegal or unsafe in the neighborhood and forced thousands of migrant workers from their homes and jobs.

Investigators gather outside a hospital after a deadly fire in Beijing, Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

In videos circulating on social media on Tuesday, smoke can be seen billowing from many hospital windows as people try to escape from the fire. It appears that at least one person used a rope made of bed sheets to get down from a window onto a lower level balcony.

Other people are seen either sitting on air conditioning units placed on the outside of the building, or trying to use the units to maneuver from one level to the next. One person was seen jumping from one level of the building onto the lower balcony.

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It is unclear whether or not everyone seen outside the building survived the fire.

At least two ladders were seen leaning against the building amid rescue efforts.

Several other clips that showed the building’s exterior and were posted on Weibo have since been removed.

State media CCTV reported that the cause of the fire is under investigation.