Picture: Pexels

Hong Kong - A fire at a karaoke TV lounge in southern China killed 18 people on Tuesday, and police offered a reward for information leading to the capture of a man suspected to have started the blaze.

The fire in the city of Qingyuan in Guangdong province broke out just after midnight in a three-storey building, police said on their official account on China's Twitter-like Weibo, adding that five people were injured.

Police suspect arson and are investigating, they said, identifying as a suspect a 32-year-old man surnamed Liu. They offered a reward of 200 000 yuan (about R390 000) to anyone providing information leading to his capture.

"The Qingyuan public security bureau decided to offer a reward for Liu Chunlu," the police said on Weibo. "Any citizen who discovers his whereabouts, please immediately report it to the security authorities."

Reuters could not immediately reach police in Qingyuan by telephone to seek further comment.

The man had blocked the sole entrance of the KTV lounge with a motorbike before setting it ablaze, state broadcaster CCTV said in a Weibo post on social media. The suspect had suffered burns to his waist, police added.

China has a patchy safety record on building regulations.

Authorities in Beijing, the capital, launched a 40-day "special operation" targeting fire code and building safety violations after an apartment fire last November killed 19 people, almost all migrants.

In 2013, a fire at a poultry processing plant in the northeastern province of Jilin led to 121 deaths.