Five die in Beijing electric bike fire

Blaze comes amid controversial safety campaign sparked by another deadly residential inferno

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2017, 12:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2017, 7:46pm

Beijing fire officials said two electric bikes plugged into a home-made wiring system ignited a blaze that killed five people and injured nine others in a block of flats in the Chinese capital early on Wednesday.

Fire authorities said the blaze erupted in a three-storey building in Chaoyang district’s Shibalidian township at about 1.18am, just weeks after another deadly residential fire killed 19 people and prompted a controversial 40-day municipal safety campaign.

Fire officials said a resident on the building’s second floor had connected an electrical wire to a device to recharge bikes, The Beijing News reported.

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The five people died from inhalation of gases emitted from the bikes’ burning batteries, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Flammable building materials were also found inside the flat, which was one of 27 in the block, the report said.

The owner of the building had been detained, Beijing Daily reported.

On November 18, 19 people died when a fire broke out in an illegally built basement in a block of flats on the outskirts of Beijing.

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Municipal authorities then launched an immediate crackdown on safety, forcing thousands of people, mostly migrant workers, out of their homes. On Sunday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Beijing to protest against the forced evictions.

But on Wednesday, Beijing Communist Party chief Cai Qi was quoted as saying: “This fire again shows us that we cannot stop our fire safety blitz.”

Shibalidian is in one of the areas targeted in the safety campaign, and was inspected by Beijing mayor Chen Jining after the November 18 fire, according to Beijing Daily.