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2 injured as kitchen fire chars old homes

TWO people were injured when a fire destroyed about 10 rooms in a complex of old houses in Shanghai's Yangpu District yesterday afternoon.

The victims, a cancer patient and his nurse, were hurt when they jumped from the second floor to the wall of a neighboring school to escape the flames. Witnesses said they were rushed to a hospital but their injuries were not serious.

A few hours earlier, residents and workers in the Lujiazui area in Pudong watched as huge clouds of smoke rose above a fire that gutted a temporary construction dormitory. No one was injured in that blaze.

The Yangpu fire began in the kitchen of a restaurant on Huimin Road about 12:40pm and spread swiftly to the neighboring wood-and-brick homes.

A street-washing truck was passing the area at the time and at the urging of residents aimed one of its hoses at the fire, helping to control its severity, witnesses said.

Xu Yanseng and his wife, who live above the restaurant, were shocked to see the smoke and realize their daughter was still upstairs.

The senior university student was apparently frozen with fear and didn't move until Xu called out to her. Xu saw her tumble down the stairs as the family's personal belongings went up in flames. She was not injured.

Many women residents cried as the blaze grew, and some rushed to pour water on the fire to prevent it from spreading to their homes.

A 56-year-old man, who had just returned from the hospital following stomach cancer surgery, jumped with his nurse from the second floor to the school wall to escape the flames.

Residents said the fire began in a restaurant cooking pan, but fire officials were still conducting an investigation into the cause of the blaze last night.

"We're lucky the fire broke out in daytime and without much wind," Xu said. "We might have been killed if it had happened at night."

Xu said he had quarreled earlier with the restaurant owner over safety, adding that they had a major argument on Wednesday over smoke from the restaurant's frying pans. Xu also said he had complained to police and community officials, but no action was taken.

The area, full of two- and three-story structures built in the 1930s, will be demolished soon to make way for a high-tech park.

In the earlier fire, a three-story workers dormitory burned down at a construction site in the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone. There was no one inside at the time.

The 9:50am blaze sent smoke billowing half as high as the nearby Shanghai Pudong Shangri-La Hotel until firefighters put out it around 11am, witnesses said.

The fire started in a second-floor room and soon spread to the whole building, which coverd about 200 square meters, according to a security guard. Some workers ran back to their rooms to retrieve their belongings when the blaze started, witnesses said.

"I saw some workers throwing their clothes and quilts from their rooms. Security guards shouted at them to get out and blocked others from getting in," said a passer-by surnamed Zhong.

Most of the dorm collapsed after flames melted the roof of the metal building.

The fire authority was still investigating the cause of the blaze late yesterday.


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