Shanghai inferno arouses nationwide outcry (2)

09:10, November 17, 2010      

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Ye Yaoxian, an engineer with the China Architecture Design and Research Group, said China lacks the ability to effectively fight fires in buildings taller than 100 meters.

"We have no water engines to put out the fire because the water can't reach the site, and we are lacking facilities in buildings to help pump water to higher levels. Also, we have no escape equipment for residents on upper floors," Ye said.

With China's limited experience and ability in fighting such fires, Ye explained, the skyscraper boom in recent years doesn't mirror reality.

"Skyscrapers are needed in highly populated areas with soaring property prices. Building them in other areas just increases the danger of fires," he said.

There are about 5,000 high-rise buildings in Shanghai, among which 100 buildings are more than 100 meters. In 2004, more than 200 fires broke out in tall buildings across Shanghai, the Shanghai Oriental News Radio reported.

Just a week ago, Shanghai staged a massive fire drill that included exercises for putting out fires in high-rise buildings.

Luo Qifeng, a deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Disaster Prevention and Relief, told the Global Times that Monday's fire was rare because it burned from the outside and with multiple braziers burning simultaneously, which is not a scenario covered in fire drills.

Additionally, he noted that people needed to be more aware of the risks of fires. He pointed out that they often care more about protecting their belongings from theft, so the result is often that emergency entrances get locked, especially in residences and offices.

"This fire makes us aware that maintenance at construction sites is highly vulnerable to fire, and (the fire) exposes loopholes in managing the construction sites," Luo said, adding that a lack of safety awareness and insufficient extinguishing equipment contributed to the tragedy.

Liu Dong in Shanghai, Liu Linlin in Beijing and Xinhua contributed to this story

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