Eleven people, mostly seniors, died in the wee hours Friday in a fire at a nursing home in the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, local authorities told the official press.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the fire started around 1:15 a.m. at the entrance to the Lianhe Senior Nursing Home in Hailun City, at a time when there were 32 people inside its hospice wing.

Other sources said that Wang Gui, a 45-year-old man who lived there, was arguing angrily with another about a 200-yuan ($30) debt, lost control and started the fire, causing his own death and that of another 10 residents.

Wang had been committed to the home because he was suffering from cerebral thrombosis and had no family to care for him.

The nursing home is one of the government institutions that offer the so-called "five guarantees" - food, clothing, health care, a home and funeral services - to children, orphans and the elderly in China's rural areas.

Living at the institution, which was founded in 2005 and had 450 beds, were 283 people, mostly seniors.

Firefighters took an hour to put out the flames, whose causes are under investigation, Xinhua said. EFE