BEIJING -- A fire at a private shelter for orphans and abandoned children in central China killed at least seven children on Friday, a local official said. Media reports said an unknown number of others were injured.

The official website China.org.cn said the fire broke out Friday morning at the shelter, which was being run out of a woman's home in Lankao county of Henan province.

A man who would only give his surname, Zhou, from the Lankao county Communist Party propaganda department confirmed that seven children were killed in the fire.

Zhou said one more child was injured, but added that authorities did not know how many children were living in the home when the fire broke out.

China.org.cn cited police at the site as saying that many children had been hurt in the fire, though the specific number was not yet available.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The fire highlights how China's chronically underfunded state orphanage system has been unable to adequately provide shelter for many of the children who have been abandoned, often due to physical or mental disabilities.

China.org.cn said the woman who owned the home, Yuan Lihai, had for years been a street vendor in Lankao when she became locally known for sheltering abandoned children. Another report said she has taken in more than 100 children over the past two decades.

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