CCP Media Under-report the Number of Deaths in Fire Accident

By Ding Xiao, Radio Free Asia
September 25, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 25, 2006 12:00 am

CHINA–On Sept 14, a large fire broke out in Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, and the local authority refused to provide details about the incident. Local residents claim the number of deaths exceeded 40, far more than the official number announced. The building violated fire safety regulations and many people died because of a blocked escape route. The victims' families have received monetary compensation.

The Gospel (Fuyin) Building, a private, five-floor, warehouse used to make wholesale children's clothing, is located in Wuxing District, Huzhou City. The local newspapers and Huzhou TV news reports all stated that 14 people died when a fire broke out in the building. After that, all media in the country then reported that 14 people died in the fire.

According to the official website of the Beijing Administration Work Safety there were 15 deaths and one person missing.

On Sept 21, a local resident told our reporter that the number of deaths far exceeded the number officially reported. Those who died in the fire included the owner of the building, his family, and over 30 employees. Also, it was reported that 11 employees from the adjacent clothing factory were missing after the incident.

Our reporter called the Huzhou City Fire Department on the 21st Sept to confirm the number of deaths and the person he spoke with said he couldn't tell the reporter anything because it was an “internal affair.”

A resident told the reporter the authority had not maintained the Fire safety inspections, “The fire escape was blocked; all of the windows were sealed to prevent break-ins, and there were iron bars on the windows. There was no way anyone could escape.” This is why the government has kept the number of deaths a secret.

A week after the incident, when the reporter called the local police department, an officer said that the case was still under investigation. When asked why the total number of deaths hadn't increased from the initial report, the officer said that whatever could be said had already been reported in the news.

Our reporter interviewed a manager of a local children's clothing factory who said that the incident should be reported as an accident because too many objects blocked the fire escape. When asked about the compensation given to the victim's families, the manufacturer said that each was given 200,000 yuan (US$ 25,000.)