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October 31, 2011

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Narrow lane blaze highlights hazards

MORE than 40 homes in a narrow lane were damaged in a blaze yesterday.

No one was injured in the incident, but it placed the fire hazards in Shanghai's old neighborhoods under the spotlight again.

The fire started at around 12:30pm in a home in Yangshupu Road in the city's northeast Yangpu District, witnesses said.

Flames were spotted in a back room, said a witness, surnamed Zhang, who lives on the second floor of the building.

Zhang said she was sleeping when the fire broke out and was alerted by someone shouting at her window.

"I checked downstairs first, but when I came back the fire had spread and the only way I could escape was through the window," Zhang said.

The blaze spread quickly to other homes along the lane.

At least five fire engines attended the scene, and took around two hours to extinguish the flames.

Efforts were made more difficult as the vehicles had to park outside the narrow lane, with firefighters running hoses into the area.

The fire was put out at 3pm and the cause is still under investigation.

According to the neighborhood committee, 40 homes suffered damage, with four households particularly badly affected.

Repairs should be the responsibility of the lane property management company, the committee said.

According to a recent government investigation, 870,000 Shanghai residents are living in neighborhoods containing serious fire hazards.

Spot checks this year have logged 210,000 fire risks in public, residential and manufacturing buildings.

Hazards were most common in residential buildings built more than 20 years ago, the investigation showed.

The fire bureau said since 2005, 230 people had been killed in 11,003 fires in residential neighborhoods. These accounted for 40 percent of city fires in this period and 75 percent of deaths from fires. Some 73 percent of neighborhood fires were blamed on gas and electricity use.

"We found in crowded, old neighborhoods with wooden houses that residents had illegally added wiring," Miao Xiaobao, an official who took part in the investigation, said earlier.

"Aging wiring was also a problem," Miao said.

In addition, some residents were reluctant to practice fire drills, according to Miao.


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