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No smoke without fire

  • Source: Global Times
  • [08:27 December 28 2010]
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Firefighters rescue residents from fifth-floor scaffolding at the Jiaozhou building in Jingan district at 3:30 pm on November 15. Some 19th-floor residents even used the scaffolding to climb down to safety. Photo: Cai Xianmin

Exit strategy

Of a total "58 victims," 57 died inside the building and one outside, a fireman told the Oriental Morning Post.

A lack of fire exit knowledge was a key cause of the shameful death toll, the un-named man told the Shang-hai-based newspaper.

"I don't believe that," Wang said, "because I called my wife and she told me she was on her way downstairs.

"At least seven other people got the same kind of call."

His wife and mother were extremely capable medical staff, Wang said, and one of the other victims was a retired soldier who had experience of escaping tricky situations.

"We want to see the pictures taken at the scene by authorities and to know what exactly happened to our family members," he said.

"But so far the authorities have refused all our requests."

Wang himself arrived at the scene about 2:40 pm and witnessed the pitiful disaster efforts until midnight.

"Ineffective firefighting and rescue were the direct causes of so many innocent deaths," he said.

"How could a news crew arrive so much earlier than the firemen? How come their water gun could only reach the fifth floor?

"I have so many questions I want answered and I'm really unsatisfied with the reply."

Wang and 27 other victims' relatives held a private meeting nine days after the blaze at the Jiuyue Hotel, their temporary accommodation after losing their homes.

Together they resolved to refuse all compensation until a full and independent investigation identified which officials should shoulder their share of the blame.

"We won't accept compensation until real accountability for the accident is taken," Wang said.

An official investigation is being conducted by the state-appointed November 15 Relief and Rehabilitation Working Team, about whom little or no information has been released.

Their report will not be released for three months, Wang said he was told.

When the Global Times tried to reach the State Council team stationed at the Xijiao Hotel in Shanghai, a spokesman sur-named Ma said no comment would be made until the final report.

In the meantime, an internal notice sent by the Shanghai Bar Association informed all lawyers who accept a case involving the fire to report to them within 24 hours and focus on preventing possible conflict with the victims, Wang said.

Prosecutors placed three officials in criminal detention on charges of abuse of power on Friday: Gao Jianzhong, director of Jingan District Urban Construction and Communications Commission, construction department section chief Zhou Jianmin and management office deputy director Zhang Quan.

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