High-rise fire victims mourned

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The Independent Online

Tens of thousands of people swarmed to the site of a Shanghai high-rise fire that killed 58 recently to mourn and quietly criticise a system that allowed illegal contracting and unsafe materials in the country's most modern city.

Police were grabbing people by their collars and pulling them away from a designated mourning area if they tried to enter without carrying flowers. People at the scene said there appeared to be no sign of protest, though some groups of agitated locals were discussing the fire and its causes.



"Shame on them! How dare they say the rescue was successful? We here feel so sorry for those miserable families, but not for the government," said one witness to the fire, a man surnamed Yin.



China's officials are highly sensitive to any mass, emotional gathering that could swing into anger and social unrest. Neither China Central Television's nightly newscast nor the front page of the state-run Xinhua News Agency website mentioned the extraordinary gathering.



The fire swept through the 28-story building last Monday after sparks from welding equipment set alight nylon construction netting and bamboo scaffolding. Some people scrambled down the scaffolding to escape.



The Shanghai government said most of the victims died inside their own homes, overcome by smoke, toxic fumes and heat.



Another 71 were injured, and an unknown number of people are still unaccounted for.

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