By Daniele Mattioli
A summary of the facts so far:
The 28-storey apartment building was located at the intersection of Jiaozhou Road and Yuyao Road in the Jing’an district. Containing around 500 apartments, it served mainly as housing for retired teachers and was undergoing some renovations when welding sparks caused the scaffolding catch fire at approximately 2:15pm. The fire spread from the scaffolding to the building itself, completely engulfing the high rise in flames.
25 fire units and more than 100 fire engines were dispatched to the scene. Water canons from the trucks could only reach the fifth floor forcing firefighters to hose water from the top of a neighboring building to douse the fire. Firefighters say the fire became so out of control because much of the construction material was highly flammable and strong winds worsened conditions. Thick smoke from the inferno was preventing three helicopters from rescuing people trapped on the burning building’s roof; some residents escaped by climbing down the scaffolding. The fire was mostly put out by 6:30pm.
Injured: 70+, at least 17 are seriously injured; most of the victims are the young and elderly who were home during the daytime. As many as nine nearby hospitals have been receiving patients. A partial list of where the injured are being treated: Huadong Hospital (华东医院) – 25, Children’s Hospital (儿童医院) – 1, Fang Yi Hospital (纺一医院) – 8, and Jing’an Hospital (静安区中心医院) – 27, 13 of which are in intensive care.
Missing: 43. Many people are still frantically searching for family members and loved ones.
Survivors were put up last night in several nearby public facilities, including a school and a gym.
Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu, China’s top policeman, called for an investigation into the cause of the fire and has been on site to oversee rescue efforts. CNN reports that four welders have already been detained on criminal charges. The preliminary investigation shows that unlicensed welding work may be to blame for this horrible disaster.
Find continuing Shanghaiist coverage of the fire here.