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Report finds lax safety led to hospital blaze

By Du Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-26 08:58

Ambulances and fire trucks park outside of the Beijing Changfeng Hospital in Fengtai district of Beijing, on April 18, 2023. [Photo by Wu Xiaohui/chinadaily.com.cn]

Fueled by absence of hazard management, illegal renovation sparked fire that killed 29

The investigation into the deadly hospital fire in Beijing earlier this year has found a spate of failures in safety standards and emergency response were the root causes, and a top city official has been reprimanded.

The State Council approved the investigation report of the serious fire incident that occurred at Beijing Changfeng Hospital on April 18, which resulted in the loss of 29 lives and 42 injuries, according to Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday afternoon.

The incident, which took place in the city's Fengtai district, has led to a direct economic loss of 38.3 million yuan ($5.26 million), according to the government.

As a result of the investigation, the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Commission of Supervision have decided to impose an administrative warning on Jin Wei, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, and vice-mayor of the capital, who is responsible for overseeing health and hygiene matters of the city.

It said that Jin failed to pay enough attention to the weak safety management of the city's health departments and the prominent fire safety hazards in medical institutions.

"He also did not effectively supervise the city's health departments in fulfilling their responsibilities in ensuring safety and holding medical institutions accountable for their safety obligations," said the announcement.

The investigation, conducted by the State Council's accident investigation team, concluded that the fire was a result of illegal and improper renovation work carried out by the hospital, poor construction safety management, inadequate daily supervision, long-term fire hazards, noncompliant operations by the construction unit, and the absence of on-site safety management.

In addition, the ineffective emergency response and the failure of local governments and relevant departments to fulfill their responsibilities led to this major safety accident.

After thorough analysis including video analysis, on-site inspection, testing and identification, as well as simulation experiment analysis, the accident investigation team determined that the construction unit had violated regulations during a renovation project.

It found that volatile flammable and explosive components present in the construction materials had formed explosive gas mixtures that ultimately led to a deflagration event.

Then, nearby combustible materials were set ablaze, giving rise to open flames and generating high-temperature smoke that ignited the wooden materials within the building.

Furthermore, certain fire compartments failed to function effectively, and fixed firefighting facilities proved to be inadequate, contributing to the rapid spread of the fire and the extensive dissemination of smoke.

Due to insufficient initial response measures, the evacuation and transfer of patients from high-rise buildings were not effectively coordinated, which resulted in significant casualties and highlighted the need for better emergency protocols and procedures.

In the hospital, most patients had no ability to escape independently. The narrow passages in the building and poor transfer conditions hindered rescue and evacuation efforts.

The investigation team provided suggestions to avoid similar incidents, highlighting the need for stricter safety measures in healthcare institutions and emphasizing the crucial role government officials play in enforcing these measures.

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