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March 23, 2011

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Fears over school 'time bomb'

ANXIOUS parents have branded the construction of a school building next to a gasoline station in Luwan District as an accident waiting to happen.

The building, belonging to Wu'ai Middle School on Zhizaoju Road and scheduled to be completed by July, is only separated from the Sinopec gas station by a wall.

It is one of three school buildings under construction around the gas station.

While the school and the builder say they have taken stringent safety measures, pupils and parents are worried about the risk of an explosion and the effects of fuel fumes.

A local resident, surnamed Li, whose son is a pupil at the school, said he was extremely concerned.

"It's like a time bomb. If the station exploded, it would have disastrous consequences."

The builder and the school said the building's wall next to the gas station is 30 centimeters thick and explosion-proof. "If the gas station exploded, the school building would be safe," said a school official, surnamed Zhang.

The Shanghai Work Safety Bureau said it will measure the distance between the building and gas station to judge whether it's safe. Civil buildings should at least be 16 meters away from gas stations. It could not confirm claims that the wall was able to withstand an explosion.

The new building will be used for classrooms and dormitories, said the school.

Another parent, surnamed Lu, said even if it is safe to construct the school building there, gasoline fumes would threaten pupils' health.

However, the gas station has been equipped with a gas recycling system designed to prevent fumes from entering the nearby environment, said officials.

Luwan District Urban Planning, Land and Resources Administration Bureau said the building design meets national-level and Shanghai-level construction regulations.

The district government and Sinopec are together paying for the explosion-proof wall and gas extractor system, according to the statement.

Yang Yongming, a Shanghai Education Commission official in charge of student safety, said that the current scheme is a compromise.

Gas stations should be built at least 50 meters away from school buildings, according to regulations introduced in 2005.

"But you can't ask the gas station to move because it was erected before the school's new building," Yang said.

There is also little space for the school to expand in the crowded downtown area, Yang added.


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