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16 sickened by gas in group-rent flat

SIXTEEN young women who worked in a Hongkou District beauty salon suffered gas poisoning in their overcrowded apartment dormitory yesterday and were rushed for hospital treatment.

Doctors said the victims suffered oxygen deprivation after many of them took baths and gas accumulated because of bad ventilation.

All but one of the women were released after treatment by yesterday evening. But the incident could have ended tragically.

The women were living in a 100-square-meter room equipped with more than 10 bunk beds. As many as 20 women, all workers at a beauty salon on Sichuan Road N., shared the room, a practice that the city is trying to stamp out.

Security guards at the Baoshan Road building heard the women crying for help around 2:50am.

Four ambulances took the patients to the nearby People's Liberation Army No. 411 Hospital.

Around 11pm on Sunday, 12 of the women returned to their dormitory and went to bed after having baths.

Four others returned at around 1am. One of the women later felt that something was wrong and collapsed.

This woke the others, who began shouting for help after they also had trouble standing.

Police said exhaust fumes from the shower's water heater accumulated in the badly ventilated apartment.

The building is rented by many companies for office space and dormitories. Group rentals are a popular way to minimize living expenses.

"Eight workers share an apartment rented by our company near the salon," said a 20-year-old woman working in another beauty parlor on Weihai Road in Jing'an District. "We feel the facilities are good, though it is inconvenient to take baths."

Collective rentals occur most often in new residential areas where apartments are divided into dozens of rooms and leased to a group of tenants. But the city has implemented measures to stop the practice.

The government issued a trial regulation on the management of residential leasing in December 2006 that stipulates a room can be rented only to one person or one family, and the per-capita living area must exceed 5 square meters.

Hongkou District officials said they took no immediate action against the Baoshan Road apartment building yesterday.


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