Deadly blaze:

Se­cu­rity guard says help was slow to ar­rive and the fire exit was blocked

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIN JING lin­jingcd@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chen Sizhen, a 45-year-old fruit seller, was one of 16 peo­ple killed in a fire at a fruit mar­ket in the Guang­ming New Dis­trict of Shen­zhen on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

She had been sell­ing fruit for 20 years and had sup­ported her fam­ily for the past 15 years, since her hus­band died. She lived and worked at the Rongjian Farm­ers Mar­ket with her three sons.

Chen Guochang, her brother, said her death was a heavy blow to the fam­ily, which hails from Meizhou, Guang­dong prov­ince.

Hear­ing the news, rel­a­tives be­gan to ar­rive at the hos­pi­tal where Chen Sizhen’s body was be­ing kept, ask­ing the nurses to keep her a while longer.

“I have in­formed other fam­ily mem­bers to come and look at her for the last time,” said Chen.

The fire started at 1:30 am on Wed­nes­day and was put out at 3 am. As of 7 pm, the death toll stood at 16. Among them is a 2-year-old girl.

Five more peo­ple were in­jured in the blaze, in­clud­ing two of Chen’s sons. They are re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at Guang­ming New Dis­trict Peo­ple’s Hos­pi­tal, which is about 3 kilo­me­ters from the mar­ket.

Kong Li, a fe­male em­ployee of Aimeishi Gro­cery, across the street from the mar­ket, said that she saw the fire at about 2 am from her apart­ment.

“The flames were about 2 me­ters high over the roof of the build­ing,” she said. “And the thick black smoke was al­most ev­ery­where.”

The fire depart­ment sent 29 fire en­gines and 145 fire­fight­ers.

At 150,000 square me­ters, Rongjian is a big whole­sale mar­ket in the north­west of Shen­zhen. It has over 1,600 ten­ants, most of whom sell fruit or veg­eta­bles.

The flames were about 2 me­ters high over the roof of the build­ing.” KONG LI AN EM­PLOYEE OF THE AIMEISHI GRO­CERY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE MAR­KET

The fire oc­curred in sec­tion B of the mar­ket, en­gulf­ing an area of 1,000 square me­ters and leav­ing the ceil­ing black­ened. More than 20 ten­ants lost their stores.

A gi­ant ex­ca­va­tor had been dig­ging through the de­bris since Wed­nes­day morn­ing, while 10 firetrucks were parked along the street await­ing fur­ther or­ders. Lo­cal po­lice and se­cu­rity guards had sealed off the whole area.

Gu Maolin, a se­cu­rity guard of the mar­ket, said that it took about 40 min­utes for the fire­fight­ers to reach the scene.

“Other guards who helped to put out the fire said that there was no wa­ter com­ing from the fire hy­drant, and the fire exit was blocked,” he said.

When asked about the mal­func­tion of the fire hy­drant, Zhang Xiaowei, chief of staff with the Shen­zhen fire depart­ment, ad­mit­ted that the wa­ter pres­sure in the mar­ket is not strong.

Zhang said that the low pres­sure gave fire­fight­ers an ef­fec­tive range of only 10 me­ters, but he said this was suf­fi­cient to reach the fire.

Other mer­chants next to sec­tion B were not af­fected. They said that they did not hear any­thing out of the or­di­nary dur­ing the night, in­di­cat­ing that there was no sound of an ex­plo­sion when the fire oc­curred.

Guo Feng, a Party of­fi­cial from Guang­ming New Dis­trict, said the gov­ern­ment has set up sev­eral spe­cial teams to as­sist the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies, pro­vid­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­sel­ing and ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“We have in­structed nearby dis­tricts and com­mu­ni­ties to have a thor­ough check to elim­i­nate po­ten­tial dan­gers,” he said.

Guo added that the mar­ket was cre­ated from an old fac­tory built in the 1980s, and the ig­ni­tion point could be a tem­po­rary struc­ture built in 2008.

He said the gov­ern­ment for­bade ten­ants to live in the mar­ket be­cause of po­ten­tial dan­gers, but four fam­i­lies were known to live there. Guo said that the cause of the fire might be con­nected to one of th­ese fam­i­lies.

A team of pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials has been sent to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the fire and iden­tify any sus­pects.

Guo added, lo­cal po­lice have been ques­tion­ing the owner of the mar­ket, a man sur­named Xu.

WEN ZI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Fire­fight­ers search for vic­tims af­ter a fire en­gulfed a fruit mar­ket in the Guang­ming New Dis­trict of Shen­zhen on Wed­nes­day. At least 16 peo­ple were killed and five were in­jured in the blaze, which may have started in a tem­po­rary struc­ture built in 2008.

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