A local Chinese government has admitted it tolerated the existence of an illegally-run orphanage, where six children and one young adult died in a house fire.

People.com.cn, the official website of the party-run People's Daily, reported Saturday that the Lankao county government in central China's Henan province said Yuan Lihai, operator of the orphanage, illegally took in and cared for 18 abandoned children and young adults at her home but that the government turned a blind eye to it in consideration of her "kind-hearted acts."

The deaths have spotlighted China's lack of government-run child services, which have often left to private citizens with few resources and no legal authority.

The Lankao government says a fire broke out at Yuan's home Friday, killing seven and injuring one 10-year-old boy.