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October 27, 2011

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900,000 live in firetrap areas

ALMOST 900,000 Shanghai residents are living in neighborhoods containing serious fire hazards, according to a local government investigation.

Shanghai police chief Zhang Xuebing said yesterday that spot checks this year have logged 210,000 fire risks in public, residential and manufacturing buildings.

Hazards were most common in residential buildings built more than 20 years ago, the government investigation showed.

Some 870,000 people live in these neighborhoods where there is a major threat of fire, said officials.

In response, officials said renewed efforts would be made to improve fire safety in the city.

The fire bureau said since 2005, 230 people had been killed in 11,003 fires in residential neighborhoods. These accounted for 40 percent of city fires in this period and 75 percent of deaths from fires.

Some 73 percent of neighborhood fires were blamed on unsafe gas and electricity use. "We found in crowded, old neighborhoods with wooden houses, residents had illegally added wiring and aging wiring was also a problem," said Miao Xiaobao, an official who took part in the investigation.

In addition, some residents were reluctant to practice fire drills, added Miao.

Dangerous wiring was also a problem in stores in crowded clothing and small commodity markets - such as some clothing markets in downtown Qipu Road. Investigators found it a common practice for shop owners to store stock in emergency exits.

The fire bureau said that 717 fires had broken out in local markets since 2005, killing 14 people.

Hazards were also found in supermarkets. Zhang said a recent check found a downtown hypermarket blocking its fire escape with parked cars.

Zhang said the local government will carry out more inspections to ensure fire safety breaches are tackled.

He said three fire stations had been built recently, and more improvements are under way.

There are also plans to reduce numbers of parked vehicles in narrow streets. "The government is drafting new standards to regulate mandatory parking facilities in newer residential complexes," Zhang said.


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