China: Arson suspect arrested in karaoke bar fire that killed 18

State media report suspect had blocked the sole entrance of the lounge with a motorbike before setting it ablaze.

Police in southern China have arrested a man suspected of starting a blaze in a karaoke lounge that killed 18 people

The suspect’s arrest on Tuesday came shortly after authorities offered a reward for information on his whereabouts.

The fire in the city of Qingyuan in southeastern China broke out just after midnight in a three-storey building, police said on their official account on China’s Weibo platform, adding that five people were injured.

“The suspect in the arson case, Liu Chunlu … has been successfully captured,” the police wrote on Weibo.

A reward of 200,000 yuan (about $31,676) had been offered to anyone who provided information leading to the capture.

The man had blocked the sole entrance of the KTV lounge with a motorbike before setting it ablaze, state broadcaster CCTV said in a Weibo post. 

The public security bureau of Qingyuan City said the man had burns on his hips.

It did not provide a motive for the arson, but state broadcaster CCTV reported the suspect had set fire to a karaoke parlour after an argument with others.

Police, fire, health and other departments sent rescuers to the site after receiving a call around half-past midnight about the fire, the Qingyuan police said.

The fire was put out about an hour later, and the injured had been sent to the hospital, the bureau said on its official account on the microblogging site, Sina Weibo.

China frequently suffers deadly fires and industrial accidents, often blamed on negligence.

Authorities in Beijing, the capital, launched a 40-day “special operation” targeting fire code and building safety violations after an apartment fire last November killed 19 people, almost all migrants.

Last year, police arrested a man suspected of setting fire to a two-storey house in eastern China, killing 22 people. At that time, investigators discovered traces of petrol at the scene of the predawn fire in Jiangsu province and found all the doors of the house locked.

In 2013, a fire at a poultry processing plant in the northeastern province of Jilin led to 121 deaths.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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