Hundreds mark anniversary of deadly Shanghai fire
SHANGHAI, China -- Hundreds of people, many bearing flowers and incense, gathered in China's commercial hub of Shanghai on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of an apartment-building fire that killed 58 people last year.
The memorial was peaceful, but did have political overtones because 26 people -- including government officials -- have been jailed for up to 16 years for bribery and other crimes related to the fire. Welders were blamed for causing the fire by ignoring safety precautions, and some Chinese say the disaster highlighted the push to expand the economy at the cost of safety.
A woman who would give only her last name, Shi, said she worked close to the 28-story apartment building that was gutted by the fire and wanted to honor those who died. "I feel sad after coming here," she said.
The crowd of about 600 people, including family members of some of the victims, left flowers at the apartment building, which is still a burned-out shell in an upscale neighborhood.
One woman about 30 years of age was in a wheelchair, scars visible on a hand, leg and her face. A young girl about 5 or 6 years old had two white flowers in her hair to show that a family member or relative had died in the fire.
Cao Jindi, a 66-year-old retired worker, said she took a bus to the site to take part in the memorial. "I was passing by here last year and saw the big fire, it was just huge. I left the flowers and incense here to remember them (the victims)," she said.
Welders were blamed for causing the fire by ignoring safety precautions, with sparks from their welding setting alight nylon netting and bamboo scaffolding set up as part of an exterior renovation. Most of the victims were overcome by smoke, toxic fumes and heat.
Those sentenced included government officials, construction company heads and supervisors, and welders who lacked the proper qualifications, according to a report on the No. 2 branch of the Shanghai Municipal People's Procuratorate website earlier this year.
Building fires are common in China because of lax safety codes and unsafe construction work.
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