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November 19, 2010

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Fire inspection sweep begins in wake of blaze

SHANGHAI has launched a citywide inspection of public venues and residential buildings to check fire safety arrangements in the wake of Monday's high-rise blaze that killed at least 53 people.

The fire-prevention campaign is targeting all high-rise buildings, entertainment venues, shops and malls, hotels, schools and densely populated residential areas. Construction sites are a top priority, according to a city government statement.

And if buildings and construction sites fail to meet standards for firefighting equipment and fire exits, they will be ordered to improve immediately or be shut down.

Zhu Jin, a Zhabei District official, told Shanghai Daily that they will also pay close attention to areas such as the crowded Qipu Road Clothing Market.

The statement also said that the city will equip its firefighting department with better fire engines and consider repositioning some of its 120 fire brigades.

Random checks

Meanwhile, all construction sites will down tools for two hours at 9am today to conduct safety checks. The city construction watchdog warned it would conduct random spot checks during the inspection period and punish sites that did not stop work.

However, by last night the construction watchdog had still not commented on the role of the inflammable plastic insulating material in the blaze at the Jiaozhou Road apartment building in Jing'an District. Many people have questioned its use.

Jing'an District government said yesterday it would publicize new construction plans for renovation of the other two buildings in the same complex of the destroyed building.

The three buildings were undergoing a renovation work to add insulation to outside walls. All work is currently suspended.

The district officials said the new renovation plans "must ensure better safety" and would ask for approval from residents before the project re-launches.

The polyurethane foaming plastic used in the project is a commonly used material in insulation projects in Shanghai. When asked by Shanghai Daily yesterday, the construction authority would not say whether it plans an investigation into the safety of buildings already clad in this material.

Specialized workers

The deadly inferno, started accidentally by unlicensed welders, has been blamed on lax supervision and illegal work practices. Police have detained eight people in connection with the fire.

The construction authority's inspection includes checking workers' licenses - with emphasis on specialized operators such as welders, examining whether projects have had qualified safety supervisors on duty, as well as general site safety.

One elderly victim of the blaze fell ill on Wednesday and was admitted to hospital. In total, 71 people are hospitalized, including 16 in a critical condition, said officials from Shanghai Health Bureau yesterday.

The man started to suffer chest pains and breathing difficulties and went to Jing'an District Central Hospital. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and a lung infection, a complication of smoke inhalation, and hospitalized.

"The patient has been transferred to Ruijin Hospital this morning for further observation and treatment," said Xu Jian'guang, director of Shanghai Health Bureau yesterday.

"As people may develop symptoms of smoke inhalation days after the accident, we have dispatched doctors to the temporary settlement sites," Xu said.


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