A fire and air drill at a northwest China middle school left 190 people injured after they inhaled smoke and toxic fumes.
Artificially-generated smoke was used to simulate a fire accident situation, but during the drill a machine malfunction caused the release of too much smoke. More than 150 students fell ill and nine of the injured people were in critical condition.
The fire and air drill at the Yifu Experimental Middle School in the province of Gansu was organized by the school and the Civil Air Defense Office of Tiansui. Upon inhaling the smoke, many people had breathing issues or fainted.
The fire drill accident led to 142 people being admitted to the hospital with nine described as being in critical condition. Those affected by the smoke and toxic fumes experienced digestive tract bleeding and milder symptoms like coughing, vomiting and fever.
Drones, dangerous chemicals and emergency evacuations were part of the fire and air drill. It remains uncertain whether the fire drill was part of the annual education day that’s dedicated to National Defense awareness or an initiative that commemorates the 84th anniversary of the 1931 “Mukden Incident,” which led to the occupation of China’s northeast region by Japan and escalated the invasion and conquest of the country.
The Associated Press says their attempts to contact the school and local authorities were unsuccessful. More than 400 middle school students participated in the fire and air raid drill:
“Many students began to cough and vomit after inhaling the smoke,” the local authorities have stated.
The Lanzhou Evening News, a local paper, says that the drill’s failure was due to the fact that many students disregarded administrators’ and teachers’ fire drill instructions of bringing wet tissues to the drill for covering their faces and protecting themselves from smoke.
As Mashable reports, a user on the popular microblogging Chinese site Weibo backed teachers, saying that it was students’ fault and teachers were not to blame. The user is supposedly a recent school graduate.
Gansu authorities condemned the school’s management for the incident and demanded more efficient management of future fire and air drills. The tragedy follows the recent Tianjin port blast accident which, Scientific American says, highlights the urgency for China to improve its safety regulations.