Commentary: Skyscraper safety a concern for China

10:30, November 17, 2010      

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A fire that claimed 53 lives in a 28-story building in the center of Shanghai has made people rethink the safety of high-rises that have been mushrooming up across the country with the economic boom.

Like the CCTV fire last year in Beijing, the Shanghai fire revealed the embarrassing lack of fire safety measures and facilities in China's biggest metropolises.

The first fire trucks arriving at the scene could not do much about the fire that burnt beyond their reach. When the imported fire truck that is capable of dealing with a fire 300 meters high eventually arrived, the fire was already out of control.

There are other concerns, such as whether the building was equipped with enough fire extinguishers to put out the fire in the first place, and whether workers as well as residents in this building had undergone any fire safety training. Allegedly, the construction workers also broke safety rules as well while they were welding, which is believed to be the origin of the fire.

It is hard to imagine what the result would be if a similar fire broke out in a high-rise building in a second or third-tier city.

China has an increasing number of high-rises that dwarf many famous buildings in the world. It has been developing the world's largest high-speed railways and super highways. Yet Chinese urban dwellers feel a major lack of security, be it food, traffic, housing or other facilities.

The nation may have been in a rush in its earlier pursuits to ensure its people have enough to eat and wear, which resulted in poorly supervised and unregulated development. It is time to address the quality of life in China now that those days are gone.

China's modernization should not only mean a wealthier life for its citizens. The drive for modernization should also include the quest for a greater peace of mind. The government and corporate groups should notice the change in society and try to meet the demand.

The authorities should attach as much importance in safety as they do with national defense and social stability. It is not only a humanitarian responsibility of the government, but also a demonstration of the state's power.

It will also give greater confidence of the people toward the country and the government.

Before more tragedies happen, China should take decisive steps to address many of its safety problems in food, health, transportation, housing and other areas.

Only by ensuing people's sense of security can the country declare that it is on the right path toward a modern and civil society.

Source:Global Times


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