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8 detained over massive high-rise fire

[ 2010-11-17 11:22]     字号 [] [] []  
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Eight people were detained on Tuesday on suspicion of accidentally starting a fire that engulfed a downtown high-rise apartment building killing at least 53 people on Monday.

"Preliminary investigation shows that unlicensed welders worked, against regulations, on the scaffolding, setting off the fire," Cheng Jiulong, deputy director of the Shanghai public security bureau, told a news conference. He did not say if all those detained were workers.

Based on the site investigation, video evidence and witnesses, police believe that the fire started on the north side of the 10th floor scaffolding, where they found welding equipment, Cheng said.

Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu asked relevant departments to thoroughly investigate the tragedy and punish those responsible.

Of the more than 70 people injured, 17 were in critical condition, authorities said.

"More than 60 percent of the injured are aged 50 or above. The eldest is aged 85 while the youngest is only 3," said Li Weiping, deputy director of the Shanghai health bureau.

Many of the injured also suffered from chronic diseases, Li said. The building housed a number of retired teachers.

The city government set up a special work team headed by Mayor Han Zheng on Tuesday to handle the aftermath.

More than 440 people in about 150 households used to live in the 28-floor building, which was completed in 1998 in Jing'an district, a densely populated area. The building was undergoing a government-supported energy saving renovation project and was enclosed by scaffolding and safety netting that caused the fire to spread swiftly.

"The building was surrounded by scaffolding and covered with flammable nylon netting and bamboo boards. When sparks rained down on the scaffolding, they immediately started a fire," said Chen

Fei, director of Shanghai's firefighting bureau, adding that strong winds also accelerated the fire's spread.

More than 1,300 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze backed up by at least 120 fire engines. In addition to helicopters, the city's only 90-meter aerial ladder was also used in the rescue operation.

Because of the nature and intensity of the fire, the aerial ladder could only be used on one side, Chen said.

Tackling high-rise blazes is a problem the world over, he added.

The Shanghai fire toll is the worst since a shopping mall blaze in Jilin province in 2004 that killed 53 people, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.


1. Who is believed to be the cause of the fire?

2. Which floor do police believe it started on?

3. How many firefighters were call to clean up the blaze?


1. Welders

2. 10th

3. 1300


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

8 detained over massive high-rise fire

8 detained over massive high-rise fire

Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China Daily for one year.