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Hammers are hot sellers after bus blaze

SHANGHAI'S transportation authority yesterday ordered bus crews to make sure they're carrying window-breaking safety hammers, but many passengers had already taken emergency escape precautions into their own hands.

Sales of safety hammers have been booming in Shanghai ever since a fire roared through a packed bus in Chengdu on Friday, killing 27 and injuring 74. Witnesses said passengers had a hard time escaping from the bus because the windows couldn't be opened, and many of the vehicle's safety hammers were missing.

Chen Xuxia, an employee of a protective equipment factory in Zhejiang Province who also sells safety hammers on the Website, said sales of the devices have soared to 100 a day. Prior to the Chengdu blaze, which may have been caused by someone who brought gasoline on the bus, the window smashers hardly sold at all.

Perfect gift

"Some people bought five or more at a time," Chen said. "They bought them as presents for friends and relatives to wish them safe journeys."

The hammers selling on the Internet are priced from 10 yuan (US$1.46) to 80 yuan, including a three-in-one device that features a hammer, flashlight and knife for cutting jammed seatbelts.

Almost all the stores on taobao that sell safety hammers have enjoyed a windfall. One store that markets the combination hammer for 18.88 yuan shipped out 134 in the past five days, almost triple the volume of the previous month.

"The bus blaze was an alert. Though I find most of the buses in Shanghai are equipped with hammers, I still think it's necessary to bring one with me. And maybe I will buy more for my parents," said Yu Huiying, a customer.

Shanghai buses have been equipped with safety hammers since a passenger who carried a can of gasoline on a local No. 842 bus caused a fire that killed three people and injured 12 in May last year.

The BaShi Co's Pudong branch, for instance, said it has added 2,500 hammers to its buses, though they sometimes turn up missing. The bus company has to cover hammers with a plastic box or use an alarm system to prevent them from being stolen by passengers.

Shanghai Daily reporters carried out a spot check of 10 buses during rush hour last night, but found only one safety hammer missing from its frame on a downtown bus.


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