4 students die in bid to escape fire
rumana husain | November 14, 2008 at 07:49 pmby
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A horrible tragedy, considering it could have been averted.
FOUR young female college students died yesterday after falling or jumping from their flame-engulfed room on the sixth floor of the Shanghai Business School.
Witnesses said one woman jumped and appeared to be aiming for bushes on the ground, but missed and landed on concrete.
The other three, witnesses said, were desperately trying to clamber to another room amid roaring flames when they fell to the concrete ground.
The fire broke out in room 602 of the seven-floor dormitory at the school's downtown campus on Zhongshan Road W. just after 6am.
Paramedics told the Shanghai Public Security Bureau that the four died at the scene.
The fire was caused by an electric device used to heat water in a thermos. This ignited flammable objects, police said late yesterday afternoon.
The youngest victim was 19-year-old Chen Rui. The other three were Wang Jiayan, 20, and Zhang Yanping and Liu Wenwen, both 21.
The four were all junior students in economics. Two were from Shanghai, one was from Jiangsu Province and the other from Sichuan Province.
After receiving the reports of the fire about 6:12am, police, firefighters and ambulances were on the scene quickly. The fire was extinguished about 6:30am, according to the school.
"It was chaotic," said a girl surnamed Huang, living in room 604. "The whole story was full of choking smoke and huge flames were coming from 602."
Huang said two other girls living in room 602 had rushed out to look for help or water but the fire increased in intensity, preventing them from returning.
"Canteen workers and students on the ground begged them to hold on and not jump," said Dong Guixuan, a senior male student.
"There were big pools of blood on the ground and many girls were hysterical," Huang said.
The electric device in question was banned on campus, Dong said, but the stick-shaped devices were popular because of their low price and high efficiency in boiling water.
The school cuts off the electricity to the dorm from 11pm to 6am every day. Some students believe the girls might have forgotten to unplug the device before lights-out time.
There is only one public toilet on each story to get water and there are no fire extinguishers at the Xuhui dormitory, according to students.
In a touching aftermath, victim Liu's blog on Xiaonei.com had received more than 70,000 visitors by last night as people sent notes of sympathy. Liu said she had hoped for 1,000 visitors on the blog, only opened three days ago.
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