'I thought that I would be killed, so I had to run'

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Shanghai Daily, November 16, 2010
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Zhou Jun was sleeping in his apartment on the 15th floor of the 28-storey complex. He and his wife had no idea about the fire until his brother, who also lived there, knocked his door.

Shanghai residential building fire kills 53

Shanghai residential building fire kills 53

"There were no earlier calls of alarm," Zhou said. "When we were told, the building was already ablaze."

Zhou was just one of scores of residents who fought for their lives and found ways to survive as the fire raged around them.

He said the corridor was full of smoke, "and there was no way through." Instead, they escaped on to the scaffolding outside of the building.

Zhou said they climbed up to the 23rd floor, where the situation was better, and later climbed down the scaffolding, during which time he lost contact with his brother.

"At that moment, we lost our sense of direction. The only thing in my mind was to climb to a place where there was no fire," Zhou said. "I saw that many residents were just waiting in their apartments and I shouted at them to leave."

Zhou and his wife climbed down to the ground and were rushed to hospital. He was later reunited with his brother.

For Hu Zhengqing and his family, yesterday was their longest day.

Hu, who is retired, was with his wife when they heard neighbors raise the alarm.

The couple, who lived on the 20th floor, first hid in their bathroom, covering their noses and mouths with wet towels.

But soon they realized that the situation had become more serious and decided to flee down the stairs. Hu suffered slight cuts to his head during their escape.

"It was a narrow escape," said Hu's wife whose hands were still shaking while drinking a cup of water in a nearby middle school, which set two classrooms for the residents.

The couple were reunited with their son at the school, and the three burst into tears as they hugged.

For others events were almost too horrific to recall.

"There were crackling sounds everywhere," said a woman surnamed Zhang who escaped to the roof with her 23-year-old son and their dog.

Thanks to firefighters, the family, along with more than 10 others on the roof escaped down the stairway.

"We were stuck on the roof and we didn't know whether the stairway was safe," Zhang recalled with fear, clutching her little dog in Jing'an District Center Hospital.

"At first we tried to hide at home with blankets and towels soaked with water. If we had been two minutes slower, we wouldn't have made it to the roof."

Although the fire engulfed the block very quickly, many residents kept calm in order to escape.

"I saw the fire outside the windows and heard the glass crack. I thought I would be killed if the fire spread inside, so I decided to escape," said a 25-year-old woman surnamed Gu.

Gu said the smoke was very thick in the stairway.

"I told myself that I had to rush. If I didn't, I might not have chance to escape," Gu said. "So I kept on running on the hot cement stairway."

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