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Orphans in gov't custody after N China fire


10:23, January 06, 2013

A child is in government custody following a fatal fire that destroyed an unregistered orphanage in north China's Henan Province on Jan 04, 2012.(Photo/Xinhua)

ZHENGZHOU, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Ten children are in government custody following a fatal fire that destroyed an unregistered orphanage in north China's Henan Province on Friday.

The civil affairs bureau of Lankao county said the children had been living with a woman named Yuan Lihai, who is believed to have been operating the orphanage out of her home.

Bureau official Li Meijiao said two of the children are in the care of the child welfare agency of Kaifeng City, while the other eight have been given shelter at a county rescue center.

Li said, "Authorities are looking at other options to take care of the children, as the rescue station is designed as a shelter for the homeless, mainly adults. It lacks facilities and services to take care of children."

She said there is no child welfare agency in Lankao county.

Yuan is a 48-year-old widow who has taken care of orphans and abandoned children since 1986, using money earned from working as a street vendor to provide for them.

Local civil affairs officials said both Yuan and the children refused to separate when civil affairs personnel asked Yuan to send the children to government rescue shelters in 2011.

The officials said Yuan had 34 orphans and abandoned children living with her before the fire, including 16 with disabilities or congenital diseases. A few of her charges were adults, including a 20-year-old man who perished in the fire.

Yuan took the older children to school on Friday, leaving the younger ones and disabled children at home.

The fire struck Yuan's home later that day, killing four people at the scene. Another three children lost their lives while being taken to a local hospital.

One child is in intensive care at the No. 2 Hospital in Kaifeng, which administrates Lankao county.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"Local governments bear unshirkable responsibilities to this issue because of poor and lax regulations," said Wu Changsheng, deputy county head of Lankao.

Yuan has no qualifications to adopt according to laws because she has her own offspring and due to her economic condition, said Wu.

Considering Yuan's actions were out of compassion, local governments acquiesced her unregistered adoption, he added.

Local government departments have offered subsistence allowances and household registration for some of the children in Yuan's orphanage, but this is not in accordance with related rules.

Lankao county government is now strengthening its regulations on unlawful adoption. The county's first social welfare center for children is expected to be built in 2013.

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