3 fire fighters die as factory rafter falls in Shanghai

2008-07-18 01:39:00 GMT       2008-07-18 09:39:00 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

BEIJING, July 18 -- Three fire fighters were killed and nine injured after a 50-meter-long girder collapsed during a huge factory fire in Shanghai Thursday.

The director of the Shanghai Fire Control Bureau, Chen Fei, said last night poor construction caused the beam to collapse.

The spectacular blaze covered an area of more than 2,000 square meters. According to witnesses, heavy smoke rose about 1,000 meters into the air and spread up to 10 kilometers away.

An acrid smell of burning plastic was also reported.

At 12:20 p.m., the Shanghai Public Security Bureau's 110 Command Center received an emergency call saying the workshop of a plastic-packaging factory in Jinhui Town, Fengxian District, was ablaze.

More than 50 fire engines were sent to the Rexam Plastic Packaging (Shanghai) Co Ltd plant.

As fire fighters tackled the flames, company employees and residents in nearby communities were evacuated.

Just after 2pm, the main beam in the workshop fell onto a large group of the fire fighters.

Three died at the scene after being buried under the girder, while nine others were injured and taken to Fengxian District Central Hospital.

According to the public security bureau, all the injured fire fighters were in a stable condition last night.

One of them, a 30-year-old fireman, suffered burns and was transferred to Ruijin Hospital.

"The patient was suspected of inhaling harmful gas upon his arrival, but his lungs and throat didn't suffer any damage and he only had bruises on left eye, right hand and foot," Dr Li Nan of Ruijin Hospital said last night.

Another fire fighter with suspected spinal injuries was taken to Shanghai No. 6 People's Hospital.

Rexam Plastic employees said the firm stored plastic products and raw materials in the workshop that caught fire, which resulted in the quick spread of flames.

Most equipment in the workshop was destroyed.

As a gas station was only 200 meters away from the factory, fire fighters diverted traffic and pedestrians.

While the blaze was under control by about 5:30pm, fire fighters worked until 8pm to extinguish all the flames.

According to authorities, two of the dead fire fighters came from the Nanqiao Fire Brigade and the other from the No. 1 Chemical Fire Control Brigade.

The Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center is investigating how the fire affected air and water quality. A drinking-water factory just to the north of the fire site has been closed as a precautionary measure.

(Source: Shanghai Daily)

I have comments _COUNT_