SHANGHAI // At least 53 people have been confirmed killed in a fire that gutted a high-rise apartment in China's commercial hub Shanghai, as the minister of police warned that such accidents may happen more often.
The minister, Meng Jianzhu ,made the warning after inspecting the 28-storey apartment building where the fire broke out yesterday afternoon.
China's rapid urban growth is throwing up vast numbers of new high-rise buildings, and while major fire disasters have been relatively rare compared to other developing countries, safety maintenance can be lacking. Mr Meng said fire risks were rising.
"Now is a period when fire disasters can easily occur, and we have to conscientiously absorb the lessons of this disaster," he told officials in Shanghai, according to the ministry of public security website.
More than 70 people were hospitalised after the blaze, Xinhua news agency reported earlier. The Shanghai government information office later said the death toll had risen to 53.
Residents and relatives searched hospitals for people who lived in the apartment in Jing'an district, many of them teachers and pensioners.
The cause of the fire was unknown, but a witness said he saw construction material burning before the flames climbed the scaffolding and spread, Xinhua reported.
Mr Meng, the police minister, sought to head off public disquiet about the blaze in Shanghai, a city with an urban population of about 13 million which just finished hosting an expo intended to showcase it as a modern, global metropolis.
"Quickly smooth people's emotions and defuse conflicts," he told officials. "Get to the bottom of the cause, clarify its nature, determine responsibility and deal with this sternly according to the law."
The Shanghai municipal publicity office said 25 fire units and more than 100 fire engines had been sent to the scene.