Fires prompt safety plan
Tom Korski in Beijing
FEARS of a growing fire threat have prompted Beijing authorities to enact a new building safety programme.
The Municipal People's Congress decreed that from November 9 all high-rise apartments, hotels, theatres and other public buildings would be subject to mandatory safety inspections.
Beijing's fire chief warned the 'danger of fire has increased day by day' in China's capital due to a construction boom that's strained local utilities to the limit.
Beijing, a city of 11 million people, has just 35 fire stations and barely half the number of hydrants required by state's standard, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
'Fire prevention and control have become indispensable safeguards for today's economic construction and social development,' said Liu Ruixiang, director of the Beijing Fire Control Bureau.
Mr Liu said the city had an estimated 3,000 high-rise buildings at risk due to inadequate fire control measures.
A 1995 probe by China's Ministry of Construction identified widespread 'quality and structural problems' in the nation's building sector.
New regulations also stipulated Beijing building owners must carry fire insurance.
All workplaces would be required to conduct fire drills and 'establish a system of job responsibility for fire control', China Daily said.
Fires in Beijing result in an average US$840,000 (HK$6.5 million) damage to property each year, according to city statistics.
Across China, more than 1,400 people were killed and US$781 million in property destroyed by fire last year.