Dozens killed in Shanghai inferno

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The Independent Online

Fire engulfed a high-rise apartment building under renovation in China's business centre of Shanghai yesterday, killing 42 people and sending residents scrambling down scaffolding to escape, city authorities said.

The official Xinhua news agency cited a witness saying the fire began when building materials had caught alight. The blaze spread to scaffolding and then to the 28-storey apartment block itself, which houses a number of retired teachers.

More than 100 fire trucks were called to battle the blaze and streams of water could be seen flowing into the building. The fire was largely extinguished four hours later. Firefighters could be seen taking bodies from the building. Earlier reports put the death toll at eight with more than 90 injured, but last night had risen to 42, the Shanghai government said in a statement, which did not give an updated figure for the number of injured.

Photographs posted online showed a man clinging to the scaffolding. A resident identified as Mr Zhou told Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix TV that he and his wife were napping in their 23rd-floor apartment when they smelled smoke. He said they climbed four storeys down the scaffolding before being rescued by firefighters.

At one point helicopters could be seen hovering over the building, and witnesses said at least one resident was rescued, but thick smoke hampered further efforts.

The city government said that 100 people were rescued, but it was not clear if those included injured people.

A doctor at Shanghai's Jing'an Central Hospital said more than 20 seriously hurt people had been admitted for treatment.