Police keep tabs on blaze site owner

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2008, 12:00am

Police in Urumqi, Xinjiang, have frozen the assets and imposed strict limits on the movements of the owner of two inner-city buildings ravaged by a 33-hour blaze this week.

Qian Jinnai, chairman of the 1.6 billion yuan Xinjiang Doowin Industrial and Commercial Group, has been confined to the city.

'We did not detain him but ordered him not to flee the city,' a municipal publicity department official said. 'If he leaves the city, who would be responsible for the accident and make necessary compensation to the vendors? We will punish [those responsible] according to the law.'

The 42-year-old Zhejiang businessman had been feted in Xinjiang for his commercial activities and won several awards for establishing businesses in the country's poor northwestern regions and bringing in investment from eastern China.

According to Xinhua, Deputy Mayor Zhang Hong said the Urumqi government planned to demolish the 12-storey Dehui International Plaza, where the fire erupted.

The fire broke out at a mop stall on the first floor of the plaza on Wednesday night and was not extinguished until yesterday.

The blaze also raged through an adjacent hotel which had already evacuated its occupants. Two firefighters died while searching the building for trapped people and another firefighter was missing.

There were also reports that two staff members of the plaza were missing.

Urumqi's sub-zero temperatures made rescue efforts enormously difficult for firefighters.

Television news bulletins showed firefighters continually slipping on ice, and water freezing in the hoses.