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March 10, 2011

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Firefighting choppers on way

THE first steps will be taken this year to bring specialist firefighting and rescue helicopters to the city, the city government said yesterday.

This is among a number of initiatives to improve safety in Shanghai following last November's high-rise blaze that killed 58 people and left 71 injured.

Firefighters struggled to reach the higher floors of the building on Jiaozhou Road, but helicopters not intended for a rescue role were unable to reach residents.

This year work will begin on building helicopter pads and other support facilities, establishing links with medical services, training and putting the contract for the helicopters out to tender.

"Preparations to build the city's first professional rescue helicopter service will begin later this year," said an official with the city's construction commission yesterday.

Other public safety improvement plans include expanding fire brigades and upgrading their equipment, added the official.

The urban construction decision maker said the city plans to invest 100.2 billion yuan (US$15.2 billion) this year on major urban infrastructure projects, as well as financial and technical research programs.

However, the budget and other details of the rescue helicopter program were not disclosed.

When fire engulfed the 28-story and 85-meter high-rise on November 15, the higher floors were out of the reach to ground-based crews.

Firefighters had to direct their hoses from neighboring high-rises.

Police attempted unsuccessfully to use their four helicopters to evacuate people trapped on top of the burning building.

Police sources told Shanghai Daily the city would order the helicopters from overseas and has a shortlist of producers.

Residents who watched the blaze live on television, called on the government to ensure that the city has firefighting helicopters in future.

Meanwhile, some long-awaited projects that will be completed this year include the Shanghai-Beijing High-speed Railway and the Wusong passenger liner terminal, located at the mouth of the Yangtze River.


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