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26 charged in Shanghai fire, blamed on corruption

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BEIJING >>Prosecutors in China’s commercial hub of Shanghai have charged 26 people with bribery and other crimes related to an apartment-building fire that killed 58 people last year, a local government website reported Saturday.

Officials say welders caused the fire by ignoring safety precautions. Those charged include government officials, construction company heads and supervisors, and welders who lacked the proper qualifications, a report on the No. 2 branch of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Procuratorate website said.

The 26 suspected face up to four charges each, including bribery and misuse of power.

Those charged include Gao Weizhong, director of the construction and transport committee of Shanghai’s Jing’an district, where the fire started, and the committee’s deputy director, Yao Yaming, according to the website.

The report said 28 others, including Shanghai vice mayor Shen Jun, have been disciplined in relation to the case.

In November, a fire swept through a 28-story apartment building in downtown Shanghai after welding sparks set alight nylon netting and bamboo scaffolding set up as part of an exterior renovation. Most of the victims were overcome by smoke, toxic fumes and heat and died inside their own homes. Another 71 people were injured.

Building fires are common in China because of lax safety codes and unsafe construction work.

China’s work safety chief has blamed the fire on illegal contracting, unsafe materials and poorly supervised, unqualified workers.

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