Fatal blazes blamed on electrical faults

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2007, 12:00am

Wiring investigated after fires claim 31 lives

The fire that killed 21 people in an apartment building in Zhejiang province on Wednesday was probably caused by faulty electrical wiring in a ground floor flower shop, mainland media said yesterday.

An electrical fault was also blamed for a blaze the same day in a Dongguan cafe in Guangdong that killed 10 people.

Sparks from an electrical wire in the Duoduoxian flower shop set wrapping paper and plastic flowers ablaze, and resulted in the devastating fire in the 28-storey Wenzhou building, Xinhua quoted officials as saying.

Heavy smoke from the flower shop also flowed through a window into a second-floor ballroom where about 200 people were dancing, suffocating 19, the reports said.

Two of the nine people in the flower shop were also killed.

The 12 men and nine women were mostly middle-aged or elderly people who had been dancing for morning exercise, the Oriental Morning Post said.

A Zhejiang work safety administration official said the agency was still investigating and refused to give details.

More than 200 fire officers and 35 fire trucks were sent to tackle the blaze, which covered about 1,270 square metres. A total of 105 people were rescued from the building.

Authorities did not say how many people were injured, but 17 people rescued were reportedly taken to the No3 People's Hospital of Wenzhou.

Except for one resident and a fireman, all of the injured were released, a hospital spokeswoman said. The resident, who jumped from the building's third floor, broke a bone and was transferred to another hospital for closer monitoring but was out of danger.

The flower shop's owner fled after the fire and officials have ordered his detention and frozen his bank accounts in order to compensate victims, Xinhua said.

The bottom three floors of the building are used for commercial purposes and the rest house residential flats.

Meanwhile, a short circuit in an air conditioner was blamed for a fire that killed 10 people and injured nine, one seriously, in a cafe in Dongguan's Zhangmutou township on Wednesday afternoon.

Guangdong media reported yesterday that four overseas nationals died at the scene but the township government denied this.

A township employee said that all the dead and injured were mainland residents and 'no foreigners or Hong Kong or Macau residents were [dead or injured]'.

He said the government was double checking the identities of the dead with their families, and the city publicity office would soon release their names.

The blaze destroyed the 330 sq metre Ming Tien cafe. Firefighters said all those who were killed died of smoke inhalation. The injured were sent to the Zhangmutou People's Hospital.

At an emergency meeting yesterday, Dongguan party secretary Liu Zhigeng and mayor Li Yuquan urged about 200 township and village officials to step up fire prevention work.

It is the second time in a year that a fire has killed more than nine people in Dongguan. In January, 13 died and five were injured in a blaze in a waste plastic plant in Dalingshan township.