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China officials take blame in deadly shelter fire

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 5, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.

— A local Chinese government on Saturday admitted it had tolerated the existence of an illegally run orphanage where six children and one young adult died in a house fire.

The Lankao county government in central China’s Henan province said Yuan Lihai, operator of the shelter, illegally took in and cared for 18 abandoned children and young adults at her home but that the government turned a blind eye to it in consideration of her “kind-hearted acts,” reported People.com.cn, the official website of the party-run People’s Daily.

“There is a direct relationship between today’s situation and the fact that some related government departments failed to enforce supervision and loosened management on purpose,” deputy county governor Wu Changsheng said at a Saturday press conference as quoted by the news report. “They should shoulder responsibility, and that’s a loophole in our work.”

Wu also told reporters that the local government had provided some assistance to Yuan to help her care for the children.

The deaths have spotlighted China’s lack of government-run child services, which have often left to private citizens with few resources and no legal authority. It is unclear whether Yuan would be punished.

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