Shanghai high-rise fire

| November 15th, 2010

1

(Edited by Key)

Fire broke out at a 28 story apartment building in Shanghai at 2:00 in the afternoon, Nov15 (local time) causing at least 49 deaths. The building was located at Jing An district and was under renovation. According to Xinhua’s report, over 100 were rescued out of the building of 156 households so far.

Well-known Chinese youth opinion leader Han Han happened to be at the scene and he had recorded what happened the whole time.

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14:14 pm, smoke rose, the part enclosed by scaffolding became the beginning of the disaster, people who did not look carefully would have thought it’s a fire on the construction site.

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14;18, the roof caught on fire, but soon disappeared

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No visible fire in the next few minutes, only black smoke

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14;25, suddenly the scaffolding and some construction material at the north side started to burn, and spreading in the southwest wind.

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14;38, the fire spread to the scaffolding on the west side of the building, made a lot of explosion noises, the building was completely lit up.

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14:45, moving towards construction materials at the south, black smoke surrounded the visible fire.

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15:27, the fire danger zone was expanded, firemen rescued dozens of people out of the building and dragged them into the ambulance one after another, but the equipment to fight the fire on high-rise buildings still have not arrived.

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Ten minutes ago, 15:15, the entire building was on fire, but couple places without the scaffolding have not been burned.

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At the same time the fire was stronger, covering the entire building.  There were still people coming out of the building, not sure if they escaped on their own or rescued by the firefighters.  The fire continued to spread to the top of the building, it  had been over an hour already, but the water hose only reached up to 7th floor, had no impact on the fire in the middle and higher floors of the building. However some news media already reported that the fire was under control.

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15:31, after one hour and 15 minutes, there was only one water hose.  Until 16:20, there was only one water hose in this direction.

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16:29, finally there were three water hoses firing at the top of the building.  Two water hoses were also set up on top of adjacent building.  However it was too late to prevent the fire from spreading.

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Last photo ,it was getting dark, ISO was automatically adjusted so the image was not so clear.  The rooms on the top floor were burned through, until I left all the things that could be burned were burned.  Fire was really under control.  Firefighters and rescuers worked very hard, but the deployment of high-rise fire fighting equipment was too slow.  May the deceased rest in peace, the living learn more survival skills to keep in this world.

***

There were two factors that contributed to the severe consequence. First, the building was cover by scaffolding and light plastic webs which catch on fire very easily. The fire started at the roof and if there were no plastic webs around it, it would not spread to the entire building this fast. Second, the equipment came too slow. The hoses used in the beginning could not reach higher levels of the building. Story above 7th were burning out of control for an hour before only one higher-reaching hose came. Two more came another hour later but it was too late to make a difference.

The host of the 2010 World Expo is a densely populated city with skyscrapers rising everywhere. But apparently the fire department has not kept up with the pace of the city. The injured would be treated, the victims’ family would receive compensation, officials would send their “extreme condolences”, the brave fire fighters and devoting officials would be highly praised on CCTV, and the similar duster would continue to happen.

46 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. kongcheng says:

    a true disaster. may they rest in peace

  2. octavian says:

    i wonder if bamboo scafolding will now be banned. not that it was the cause, but it was an enabler of the fire’s continued burn.

    • GuoBao says:

      When I saw the new yesterday I was thinking “bamboo” as well. To be honest it’s lucky this doesn’t happen more often.

  3. Interested Observer says:

    @kongcheng:
    Should have said, “Why is my sofa on fire?”

  4. golf trolley says:

    As to me, I think that what we need to do is to heal the wounded and rescue the dying. Anything punishment or blame should be proceed after this. And to be frank, the rescue is satisfying although there are so many victims.
    And, at the same time, this remind me of the bad situation of Chinese miners, I want to say that Chinese are equal, but I can not say that.

  5. Wu says:

    What will happen with the building now? repair it and use or will it be destroyed?

  6. GuoBao says:

    4 welders have been arrested by the police for causing the fire. Apparently they weren’t qualified to do that job (anyone’s surprised?). I hope they arrest the developers as well or at least the guys who hired unqualified workers to save some money. Yet we know that the whole building sector in China is a joke when it comes to safety and building regulations so I guess if they began to punish the big guns they would be busy until 2098.

    • jaap holm says:

      The welders should be freed. They are just nongmin told to do a job. ” Hey Jim youre gonna weld today” “Okay boss.” Thats how it goes.

  7. Hm… a building under construction, but that many dead? Was construction crew doing finishing work caught after the bamboo and tarp lit up?

    If this was a ‘semi-finished’ building – wasn’t there enough fire prevention piping to at least pump water into those floors that had them?

    • Leon says:

      It was an older building, undergoing renovation. Which explains the number of people inside, but doesn’t really help answer the question about why there aren’t sprinklers installed on each floor… or maybe we know the answer to that question already…

  8. kels says:

    ohhhhh wwwwwoooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww

  9. Lay Low Moe says:

    i seen building fire but
    how the fuck would a building lit up like that?
    did a plane crashed on it?
    doesn’t each floor have fight extinguisher inside the building?
    but i guess no one inside gave a shit about the fire and just ran shitlessly

  10. john digmeme says:

    Firstly, my condolences go out to the familes of the victims, a terrible tragedy.

    Secondly, the author in describing the slow response of the firemen stands in stark contrast with today’s Xinhua article, “The city’s emergency response center received a fire report at about 2:15 p.m. and authorities dispatched 122 fire engines and more than 1,300 fire-fighters to the site within a minute.”

    And last, how come Chinese buildings can survive such an immense fire yet, well, one of New York’s greatest landmarks could not? Seems that either US engineers should be trained at Tsinghua, or that there’s a conspiracy… :p

    • Jack Liu says:

      The fire fighters did came pretty fast. The problem is the that adequate equipments arrived very late.

    • Jack Liu says:

      Plus, don’t take Xinhua seriously

    • Lay Low Moe says:

      what happen on 9-11 in New York was after the plane had crashed into the building
      the building was filled with jet fuel which then combusted all at once

    • bert says:

      I think this building didn’t have a large aircraft ram into the side of it.

    • nulle says:

      you don’t read much, do you…

      the greatest landmarks of NYC at 100+ storeys tall versus the P.O.S at 28 storeys…the 8 wielders are scapegoats of CCP negligance and trying to save ‘face’

      the NYC landmark was an terrorist act (ramming a couple jumbo airliners with thousands of gallons of jet fuel) versus preventable atrocity (if fire sprinklers) were installed.

      CCP idiots don’t use their brain cells to think just like their customs morons who don’t think before enforcing their customs duty (in direct violation of WTO rules. making China look like a untrustworthy liar in the world community.)

  11. If the property management board or the local administrative office or whatever party is in charge bothered to install sprinkler system in each apartment unit, it would have at least save more lives and buy time.

    • bert says:

      In China if you put a sprinkler system in a building people live in then it will only be a matter of time before that system leaks and drowns 43 people in the lower floors. Nothing is maintained in China after it is built. Everyone knows it.

  12. redgirl says:

    How sad those poor unfortunate souls. R.I.P.

  13. Curren$y says:

    Inside job right here

  14. adam says:

    i wonder what that camouflaged building is on the last picture. anyone knows?

    • john digmeme says:

      I think it was lucky to not have been dealt the same fate as its neighbor; it’s covered in the same stuff that caught fire next door.

    • john digmeme says:

      Oh damn, now I see the building you’re talking about. I think it’s a drum n’ bass/dubstep recording studio.

  15. S.K. Cheung says:

    The scaffolding likely provided an accelerated means for the fire to spread which would not have been accounted for by the architects/engineers. That said, the last few pictures show the building engulfed while the scaffolding still looks pretty intact…would’ve thought the scaffolding would’ve taken some damage given the extent of the fire.

    THe building itself doesn’t look that old. Shouldn’t a building like that have automatic fire-suppression/sprinkler systems? Are they mandated by building code in Shanghai? If so, by law, should this building have had one, accounting for its age?

    Is this a situation where everything was done properly, but a confluence of circumstances resulted in a tragedy? Or did someone drop the ball somewhere?

  16. S.K. Cheung says:

    If there were 122 fire trucks at the scene, then either they all forgot their ladders and hoses, or they were all congregated where Han Han wasn’t.

  17. Mark Coleman says:

    This is punishment for hitting that Japanese ship and accusing Koreans of stealing Confucius. Oh yes, and so was the Sichuan Earthquake.

    Karma is a bitch.

  18. nulle says:

    lives in China is cheap…just look at the incidents the last 10 years versus citizens from other nationalities.

    I bet things are different if the fire occurred in buildings where the CCP family members resides…(the suppression of actual events, etc.)

    if China is so great, why is everyone who are successful wanted foreign citizenship/ residency?? Those born in China are leaving China in droves given the lack of opportunity, crummy air and water, crummy quality of life

  19. why says:

    life is unfair

  20. Street Hound says:

    9-11 was an inside job and this article only helps to prove it!
    Building 7 came down in freefall speeds and yet no airplane even hit it. This entire building, which many comments have noted was built by China’s finest, burnt for hours and is still standing.
    I was a bit skeptical before, but news like this just makes the whole 9-11 conspiracy just seem so much more likely.

    RIP to all those that lost their life in this fire. This is truly a sad story.
    -SH

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