Source AP ©

Karaoke bar blast kills 25 in China

A blast ripped through a karaoke parlor in northeast China, killing 25 people and injuring 33 others, state media reported Thursday, the latest tragedy in a country hit by poor safety standards and negligence.

Xinhua News Agency did not give a cause for the Wednesday night blast in Tianshifu township in Liaoning province.

It had earlier put the death toll at five, but said 25 bodies were found when rescuers had finished clearing away debris from the blast.

China has suffered a string of blasts, fires and accidents in shopping malls, cinemas and other public places despite repeated government promises to improve safety. Many are blamed on lax safety procedures and negligence.

In 2005, a fire in an illegally run bar in the southern city of Zhongshan killed 26 people. Local officials said the bar lacked fire extinguishers and its emergency exit was too narrow.

In China's worst recent nightclub disaster, a fire blamed on a welding accident tore through a disco in the central city of Luoyang in December 2000, killing 309 people.

Local reports at the time said the building had failed 18 safety checks in two years.

Investigators blamed locked emergency exits for the heavy casualties. They said the exits were closed to prevent people from sneaking into the party without paying.

With emergency stairwells shut off, though, the only way out of the disco was a single elevator. Many of the bodies were discovered crowded around the locked stairwells.

A court sentenced 23 people to prison terms of up to 13 years over the incident.

Last December, China executed two men found guilty of causing explosions at two Internet cafes in central China that killed two people.

The two had been found guilty in connection with blasts in May 2006 at two cafes in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province. Xinhua gave no motive for the attacks.