Shanghai high-rise fire: China 'to prosecute 24 people'

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a building in Shanghai, China, 15 November 2010 Firefighters battled for several hours to bring the blaze under control

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Chinese prosecutors are reported to be ready to put 24 people on trial for a fire in a high-rise apartment block in Shanghai, which killed 58 people.

Most of those killed were residents of the building, which was being renovated when fire engulfed it last November.

State media said local government officials, construction executives, and some workers would face charges.

Officials have been accused of breaking safety practices by turning a blind eye to the rules in exchange for bribes.

The fire on 15 November was initially blamed on careless unlicensed welders setting alight the netting around the building.

Most of the victims suffocated from the smoke and fumes; another 71 people were injured.

Poor safety

The reports in the China Daily and the Shanghai Daily newspapers did not say when a trial might take place.

The fire had raised questions about how corrupt relationships between senior figures in the construction companies and in government bodies might have contributed to the lack of safety on site.

The Shanghai Prosecutors' Office Director, Chen Xu, said on Monday that some of the executives whose roles are now under the spotlight worked for the Jingan District Construction Group.

This was the general contractor in charge of renovating the 28-storey building.

China's work safety officials have blamed the fire on illegal contracting, unsafe materials and poorly supervised, unqualified workers.

The State Council - China's cabinet - ordered a nationwide overhaul of fire prevention measures after the blaze.

One of China's commercial hubs, Shanghai has some 20 million residents and at least 5,000 high-rise blocks.

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