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October 18, 2011

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Cash rewards for fire safety tip-offs

SHANGHAI is to offer rewards to people providing tip-offs on fire hazards or inadequate firefighting equipment, as part of efforts to improve city safety.

Anyone providing information that leads to a crackdown on previously undetected problems will receive at least 500 yuan (US$78), said the city fire prevention department yesterday.

They can contact the fire alert center that opens on Thursday to handle tip-offs and public complaints on its 24-hour hotline 96119.

Residents are invited to report any potentially hazardous work, such as welding, taking place, said the authorities.

The city is seeking to improve fire prevention in the wake of the inferno in a high-rise in Jing'an District on November 15 last year that killed 58 people and left more than 70 injured.

"We should always be vigilant for hidden fire hazards," said Zhang Xuebing, vice mayor and the head of city police department.

Zhang is leading citywide checks and crackdowns in the lead-up to the first anniversary of the Jing'an fire.

Inspections are expected to last until next February.

He said the authorities are still finding instances of illegal or improper welding - the cause of the November 15 fire.

"It shows that management is still weak with regards to some basic work," said Zhang.

The vice mayor also has concerns over how fire prevention strategies are implemented on a day-to-day basis.

He gave an example of a local supermarket that claimed to be safe, yet inspectors discovered blocked fire exits and unclear signs.

Zhao Zixin, director of the fire prevention department, warned that the coming dry winter season will increase the risk of fire.

In a carrot-and-stick approach, rewards are backed by increased punishments for offences such as operating businesses without a fire prevention license and blocking or locking safety exits.

Violators face being fined and detained, with their businesses closed down.

In a joint campaign in suburban Jiading District, city commerce and fire authorities yesterday closed several warehouses storing second-hand clothes where evacuation routes had been blocked.

Meanwhile, in suburban Fengxian District, since late last month the district government has detained 16 people and fined them 360,000 yuan over safe safety breaches.


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