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April 20, 2011

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4 workers overcome by fumes pronounced dead in hospital

FOUR men died after they were overcome by fumes from a fire in a telecommunications building in Shanghai yesterday.

The blaze broke out in an empty equipment room which was being renovated, China Telecom officials said.

Five workers were inside the room when, according to an initial investigation, sparks from a cutting machine ignited insulation materials.

Four were overcome by the smoke and fumes. Another managed to escape. The four were taken to hospital but later pronounced dead.

The city government said the fire had been caused by "workers' improper operations" and that "no safety precautions had been taken."

The fire alarm went off at 1:32pm on the 13th floor of the building at 333 Wusheng Road in Huangpu District near People's Square.

There was little evidence of flames or smoke at the scene, witnesses said. "I just rushed downstairs without thinking much," said a woman working in the building.

The building was cordoned off and 12 fire engines arrived. Traffic on Wusheng Road was affected for a short time.

The fire was extinguished at about 1:50pm, city officials said.

Zhuang Li from China Telecom said telecommunications in the city were not affected as all equipment remained functioning.

Zhuang also said that no blast or explosions had been reported.

The building belongs to the long-distance and wireless telecommunication department with the Shanghai branch of the China Telecom.

Meanwhile, people related to the construction and decoration work had been taken in for questioning, local police said.

The workers, who had been hired by Shanghai Sea Decoration Co Ltd, had been cutting pipes connected to air conditioners when the fire broke out, police said.

Flammable thermal insulation material wrapped round the pipes had caught fire, they said.

Insulation materials were blamed for the rapid spread of a fire that engulfed a residential tower block in Jing'an District in November and killed 58 people.

Toxic gas released after the insulation material caught fire was said to be a major cause of the deaths.

After the inferno, the city fire authority began checking such materials and demanded that precautions be taken over their use in future.

Shanghai Sea Decoration Co Ltd was set up in 1993 with a registered capital of 10 million yuan, according to its official website.


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