By Paul Hickey
24 people are to be prosecuted over the fire that killed 58 and injured 71 in November of last year. Among the charged are government officials, welders, construction supervisors and the heads of the construction company itself. Charges include bribery, neglect and illegal contracting.
10 executives of the Shanghai District Construction group number among the suspects, as well as the directors of Jing’an construction and transport commissions.
The blame has been placed mostly on the unlicensed welders themselves for not following safety procedures and guidelines. Reportedly “residents of the destroyed building complained that workers smoked on the job and left flammable materials piled on the scaffolding.”
The important question is why these people were allowed to work on the site in the first place. Charges of bribery and claims of an “alliance of interests” have been brought against government officials who let the contracting company have the job despite failing safety checks.
The entire contracting chain has been called into question, and the city has promised a complete overhaul of fire safety and contracting standards. The fire seems to be a combination of mistake after mistake made by all the parties involved. China Daily reports “Work by unlicensed welders, multilayered sub-contracting and poor management all contributed to the blaze.”
The fire was terrible and mourning continued for weeks, but some good could rise from the ashes. Authorities have been forced to reassess appalling work practices and building and safety protocols, and regulations have been amended. But with the lightening speed of construction in this city, it remains to be seen whether contractors will be forced to reform, and whether corruption can truly be weeded out.
As Jiaozhou Lu fire neighbors move back home, Shanghai construction rules overhauled