Fire kills 18 at resort hotel in China's northeast

At least 18 people were killed in a fire at a resort hotel in China's northeastern city of Harbin early on Saturday, state media and an official said.

The disaster added to a string of deadly blazes that have plagued China despite official efforts to improve public safety over the past two decades.

The fire broke out at the Beilong Hot Spring Hotel in Harbin's Sun Island resort area, according to an employee of the city emergency office who would give only his surname, Wang. He said 18 people were confirmed dead but he had no information about injuries or other details.

The fire at the four-story, brick-and-concrete building started at 04:36 and was extinguished at 07:50 by a force of 105 firefighters with 30 fire trucks, state television reported. It said 16 people were rescued and some sent to hospitals but gave no details of injuries.

Video on China Central Television's social media account showed firefighters spraying water onto the smoke-blacked hotel. Fire trucks and ambulances stood in the tree-lined street.

The cause was under investigation, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The ruling Communist Party has tried to improve fire safety following deadly blazes at hotels, shopping malls and apartment buildings. But the country still suffers major fires.

In November, a fire blamed on faulty wiring at a Beijing apartment building killed 19 people.

A 2010 blaze at a Shanghai apartment tower killed at least 58 people. Authorities blamed sparks from a welder's torch.