One of the tallest skyscrapers in Changsha, China, went up in flames for hours until dozens of fire trucks were able to bring the fire under control.
The 42-story building is known as Lotus Garden China Telecom. The city’s fire department received the call at 3:48 pm local time and the thick plumes of gray smoke could be seen from a great distance. Thirty-six fire engines and more than 250 firefighters fought the blaze.
CCTV reported, “Thick smoke was billowing from the site and dozens of apartments were burning fiercely.”
Despite the ferocity of the fire and several floors of the building going up in flames, the Hunan fire department representative reported no fatalities. In a post on social media it said that “at this moment, the fire has been extinguished and we have not yet found any victims.” He also reported that the cause of the blaze, which apparently started in one of the outer walls of the building, where a large number of computers and air conditioners are concentrated, is being investigated.
According to official reports, 17 fire stations were involved in the operation to extinguish the large fire. An hour and a half later, the flames in the building were completely controlled.
The skyscraper was built in 2000 and is 218 meters (about 715 feet) high. According to reports from China Telecom, so far there were no injuries or deaths, even cell phone service was not interrupted. However, several users commented on social networks that the service was not working properly. China Telecom reported, “At around 4:30 p.m. today, the fire in our communication tower number 2 in Changsha has been extinguished. No casualties have yet been discovered and communications have not been suspended.”
Deadly fires are frequent in China
In recent years, several raging fires have occurred in the country. One of them was the great fire that ravaged a skyscraper in Shanghai in 2010. The building was destroyed by flames, and the death toll rose to 58.
The flames started on November 15, 2010, while unlicensed workers were welding. Apparently, in an oversight, sparks from the welding started the fire.
According to local media reports, several local government officials were charged with corruption and violating safety regulations for building construction and renovation.
In China, rampant corruption and a lack of control in the enforcement of legal codes for construction generate serious consequences for its inhabitants.
In June 2021, a deadly fire ravaged a martial arts school in Henan province, 18 people died and 16 were seriously injured, mostly children.
Bridges and buildings collapsing are major problem
In December 2021, a bridge suddenly collapsed on the Wuhan-Huangshi Expressway in Hubei province. Seven people were trapped and three died. According to authorities, the bridge collapsed from the weight of three large trucks. In addition, they held the driver of the heaviest truck responsible, because he “lacked common sense” and did not warn anyone that he should drive the vehicle in the center of the highway.
Chinese state media did not mention the status of the bridge construction. However, a local newspaper reported that the company in charge of carrying out the checks had reinforced the structures in October 2021. This construction company is on a “blacklist” and has not been allowed to operate in Hubei since 2019. How is it possible that a banned company can bid for bridge control and repairs, and also, win the bid? It is an unanswered question.
In May 2021, in Zhejiang province, another bridge collapsed over the Hangzhou-Shaoxing highway. Construction was underway and required an investment of $5.8 billion. Users on social media commented that the bridge collapse was a good thing, because many lives were saved. They wondered, what would have happened if the bridge had collapsed later, at the moment when hundreds of people were traveling on the highway?
China’s construction industry is rife with corruption and bribery. This phenomenon of sudden collapses of buildings, bridges over highways, even dams, the Chinese call it “tofu slag.” The buildings are so fragile that they collapse as if they were made of tofu.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, since coming to power in 2012, initiated a campaign to “clean up” corruption at all levels of the Chinese Communist Party. For this reason, a few years ago many “whistleblowers” came forward, some within the Chinese Communist Party, who uncovered deals and bribes in Chinese construction works. However, the quality of construction has not improved and Chinese citizens lack sufficient government protection and controls.
In May this year, a building suddenly collapsed at midnight in the city of Changsha. All international media reported the news for several days and 53 people died. The building was “free-standing,” it had several floors, a shopping mall, even a restaurant. However, no one checked the quality of the materials or the structure of the building. Xi gave the order to investigate what happened, the police arrested none people and five were accused of falsifying the safety reports of the building.