Poor maintenance blamed for high fatalities in deadly Beijing fire

10:40, April 28, 2011      

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Firefighters said that poor safety conditions in a building and its surrounding neighborhood were a factor that led to a high death toll in a fire that claimed the lives of 17 migrant workers in Beijing on Monday.

A lack of fire exits, narrow corridors, and barred windows made the fire more dangerous, said Xia Chunlei, spokesman for the local fire department.

"The fire erupted in a garment workshop on the ground floor, blocking the only stairway of the building. Piles of textiles in the factory also fueled the blaze," said Xia.

The poorly maintained neighborhood also prevented the entrance of fire engines, said Xia. Vehicles approached the site only after rescuers cleared cars and construction materials from the area's narrow entrances.

A building fire broke out around 1 a.m. Monday in the town of Jiugong in Beijing's Daxing district, killing 17 migrant workers and injuring 25 others.

The trapped people, most of whom were migrant workers seeking inexpensive housing in the building, were seen trying to break through barred windows and jumping out of the building to escape the fire.

Police said the fire was caused by a short circuit in an electric bicycle that was stored in the garment workshop.

Those suspected of criminal negligence in relation to the fire have been detained, said the police.

The local government has vowed to tear down similar illegal buildings in the area that are currently under construction and to eliminate any safety hazards in the area's workplaces.

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