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January 20, 2011

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Inferno block left as 'reminder'

THE shell of the downtown high-rise gutted in a blaze that claimed 58 lives will be left standing for now as a reminder of the tragedy, a top official has said.

Shen Jun, deputy mayor of Shanghai, said during a panel discussion at the legislature's ongoing session that the fire on November 15 at Jiaozhou Road exposed many problems with building materials, the construction industry and fire control systems.

Leaving the structure standing would serve as a graphic reminder to every relevant department to prevent such a tragedy. "The building is not going to be demolished, at least for now," Shen said. "We considered covering the shell, but now we think it should be left as it is, as an educational reminder."

After the blaze, which also left 71 people injured, the city is looking at installing automatic fire sprinkler and smoke alarm systems in residential complexes, Shen said.

Meanwhile, residents who escaped the flames have discovered thieves entered their homes afterward to rummage around and steal belongings.

"It's intolerable," said a resident surnamed Wang, who discovered jewelry was stolen from his 22nd-floor apartment. "I don't understand how thieves could get into my room if the building was as well cordoned-off as we had been told."

Wang said he found the jewelry case, but the valuables inside had been removed.

"My home wasn't the only place robbed, and I reported the situation to the disaster relief team, but I've heard nothing back," Wang added.

Jin Pei, a member of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, proposed this week that the building should be razed to the ground once investigations are complete.

Sightseers have been coming to stare at the blackened shell every day, said Jin, who believed the structure "was harmful to Shanghai's image." Jin suggested turning the site into a park with a monument to the memory the dead.

"There shouldn't be another residential building on the ruins," Jin said in her proposal. "As a traditional belief, the ghosts of the 58 would haunt the new complex."

A Shanghai Daily poll found 44 percent of respondents thought the high-rise should be demolished and the site turned to a park and 28 percent said another building should be built on the site.


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