2010/11/27

Thirteen arrested over Shanghai high-rise fire

SHANGHAI, November 27, 2010 (AFP) - Thirteen people have been arrested over the high-rise apartment block fire that killed 58 people in Shanghai this month, local media said Saturday.

At least 12 people were already reported to be in custody but they have only now been formally arrested by Shanghai prosecutors, media reports said.

The suspects include the former CEO of a Jingan district construction company and the former head of Shanghai Jiayi, a construction and interior design firm, local newspaper Dongfang Zaobao reported.

Officials from a company overseeing the 28-storey building's management and renovation have also been placed under arrest, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The fire on November 15 blazed for several hours, causing panicked residents to jump from the inferno or seek refuge on rickety construction scaffolding.

A preliminary investigation blamed the blaze, which eventually claimed 58 lives, on careless work by unlicensed welders who ignited nylon netting swathing the building as it was being renovated.

Eight people suffering minor injuries from the fire left hospital on Thursday and Friday, while 14 with serious injuries are in a stable condition in intensive care, according to Dongfang Zaobao.

Tens of thousands took to the streets of Shanghai last Sunday to pay tribute to the victims of the fire, which also prompted a nationwide review of fire safety.

Artist and social critic Ai Weiwei meanwhile launched a "citizen's investigation" to list the names of those who died, after authorities refused to release them, citing unwillingness on the part of some bereaved families.

"I'm doing this because in China for every accident -- whether it's an earthquake, a mining disaster or a fire -- they never publish the names of the victims," Ai said.