16 Nov 2010

Shanghai fire toll climbs to 53, four detained

8:13 pm on 16 November 2010

The death toll from a fire that swept through a high-rise Shanghai apartment block on Monday has risen to 53.

More than 70 others were taken to hospital after the fire, which broke out in the 28-storey building as it was being renovated.

Police have detained four people over the blaze, which they blame on unlicensed welding.

A witness says he saw construction material burning before the flames spread up scaffolding,

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu has called for a thorough investigation, saying those responsible will be punished.

Firefighters rigged up hoses on the top of nearby buildings and battled for several hours to bring the blaze under control.

The BBC reports that many people were trapped as fire engulfed the upper part of the building beyond the reach of the fire hoses.

Some attempted to climb down the scaffolding, while others made their way through thick smoke down the fire escapes and stumbled over each other in panic.

Helicopters attempted to rescue some people from the roof. Chinese TV showed people clinging to scaffolding as they waited to be rescued.