China has ordered an investigation into a fire that killed 29 people at a Beijing hospital, one of the deadliest in the capital in recent years, but many social media posts on the incident were deleted as people questioned a delay in announcing the news.
The death toll from the fire rose to 29 on Wednesday, including 26 patients and wounding dozens.
Social media showed dramatic videos of people using tied bed sheets to climb down the walls to escape smoke and flames after the fire broke out around 1pm local time on Tuesday in Changfeng Hospital.
Broken and burned out windows could be seen at the site, where there were many police officers, some in plain clothes, Reuters witnesses said.
All but three of the 29 dead were patients, officials told a media briefing on Wednesday, with the fire having been put out in half an hour.
"There was a lot of smoke, I could see it," said an elderly local resident who gave only his surname, Li. He gave Reuters video clips he took of smoke billowing from the upper floors of the hospital.
Authorities are investigating Beijing's deadliest fire since at least 2002, when a blaze at an internet cafe killed 25.
Initial checks showed the fire, which mostly affected a wing for critically ill patients, was caused by inflammable painting material at a ward under renovation, the officials said.
The fire was extinguished in about half an hour, according to local reports.
Authorities blocked access to the hospital on Wednesday. Broken and burned out windows could be seen and there was heavy police presence at the site of the hospital, including plain clothes police, according to Reuters witnesses.
Social media posts about the fire circulating on WeChat for several hours were either censored or deleted, according to checks by Reuters.
One post still available criticised the hospital for boasting about its fire preparedness in a February article on its official WeChat account.
"Rescue work at the scene concluded in 3.5 hours, but the public only knew that 21 had died from the fire when it's already past 8 in the evening," one person wrote on WeChat in a post that was later deleted.
"It is very puzzling that little information was known about a fire killing 21 people in a densely populated major city like Beijing before the official notification," the comment said.
Early on Wednesday, 39 injured were still in hospital, three in critical condition, and 18 serious, the officials told the briefing.