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Chinese students has no fire-safety skills
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The actions of the four young women who lost their lives in a blaze at Shanghai Business School on Friday pointed up a lack of basic fire-protection and escape knowledge, firefighters said yesterday.

Fearing that other students are also dangerously uniformed, local school authorities are now in the midst of a citywide fire safety campaign.

The full details of the tragedy, in which the students jumped or fell from their sixth-floor dorm room to escape the flames, remained unclear yesterday as the investigation into their deaths continued.

What is known is that the fire started in a bottom bunk where the heat of a stick-shaped device used to boil water ignited bedding and personal belongings.

Two roommates who spotted the flames left the dorm to find water to put out the blaze, leaving the four behind.

"If you see flames, it's wrong to open a door or window," said Gu Jinlong, who works in the city fire control authority. "It will let air in, and the oxygen will feed the blaze."

Shen Hongyan, one of the two who escaped the blaze, said in a TV interview that the fire was small when she discovered it, and she thought it could be put out with water from an outside lavatory. Fire officials said the fire probably intensified when the two women opened the door. It was not clear whether the other roommates were awake or asleep.

At some point, the four young women who remained inside did notice the flames and went to their balcony.

Liang Xiao, who lives in a nearby room, said in a TV interview that she comforted her four schoolmates on the balcony and handed them wet towels. The four then jumped or fell when the balcony became engulfed in smoke and flames.

Fire officials yesterday outlined two possible escape routes from the balcony.

(Shanghai Daily November 19, 2008)

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