Shanghai blaze victims remembered

08:36, December 20, 2010      

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A family member of a resident who died in the Nov 15 fire that killed 58 in a Shanghai high-rise ties a string of paper cranes to a memorial honoring the deceased on Sunday. (Gao Erqiang / China Daily)

Thousands of this eastern municipality's residents on Sunday mourned the 58 people killed in the Nov 15 blaze that charred a 28-story residential building downtown.

Bouquets of white and yellow chrysanthemums and lilies sent by residents and the deceased's family members were placed around the gutted building on Jiaozhou Road.

Mourning relatives and friends burned paper money and the deceased's clothes to comfort their spirits.

Most Chinese observe a mourning ritual in which the living commemorate the dead every seven days for seven weeklong cycles. Sunday was the fifth seven-day rotation (or the 35th day) following the deaths. Traditional beliefs hold the dead return home on the 35th day for the last time before reincarnation.

Relatives said they will wait for the investigation's results before claiming compensation.

The families of the deceased will each receive 960,000 yuan ($144,192), Jing'an district government's head Zhang Renliang said on Nov 24.

Authorities also announced on Dec 16 a three-step plan to provide compensation for property destroyed in the fire.

The government has designated agencies to assess residents' property.

Compensation may cover the costs of interior decoration, furniture, electrical equipment, clothing, household appliances and vehicles, as well as valuables, including cash, jewelry, securities and antiques.

A preliminary investigation in November blamed the blaze on unlicensed welders who accidentally ignited nylon netting on scaffolding surrounding the building during renovations.

Shanghai police arrested 13 suspects on Nov 26. They included the former CEO of a construction company in Jing'an district and the former head of construction and interior design company Shanghai Jiayi.

"Most residents who survived the fire and the victims' relatives are waiting for authorities to tell us who will be blamed for this tragedy and how they will be punished," Yin Xiaoqiang, a resident of the charred building, said.

"We will base compensation negotiations on the findings."

Authorities responsible for compensation have spoken to residents in general terms but have not provided specifics, he said.

"Investigations are time-consuming, and we are still waiting for the final statement," Yin said.

Cao Gang, who lost his 24-year-old niece, Chen Yi, in the blaze, said: "We are still in deep sorrow five weeks later."

The family of Chen, who had just graduated from a British college, placed candles, bouquets and her favorite childhood toys at a memorial constructed next to the fire. They bowed to the memorial three times while clutching smoldering incense sticks.

"Money can't buy back lives," Chen's grandmother said. "We want to see those who caused this tragedy punished."

Yu Ran and Li Xinzhu contributed to this story.

By Wu Yiyao, China Daily
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