Shanghai officials jailed over deadly high-rise fire

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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Four former Shanghai city officials have been jailed for up to 16 years in connection with a fire in a high-rise block of flats that killed 58 people.

The men, including the local government head of construction, were convicted of abuse of power and corruption.

Most of those killed were residents of the building, which was being renovated when fire engulfed it on 15 November.

The disaster became a focus of public anger over how such an incident could occur in such a modern city.

In total, 26 people have been convicted of charges relating to the fire. Twenty-two private construction company workers were earlier convicted of "serious negligence of duty".

The blaze was initially blamed on careless unlicensed welders setting alight netting around the 28-storey building.

The incident 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.

'Bribes'

Gao Weizhong, head of construction in Shanghai's central Jingan district, was sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined 30,000 yuan (£2,800; $4,600), state media reported.

He was found guilty of awarding construction projects to companies in exchange for bribes, local media reported.

The sentences handed down to the three other men ranged from between five and thirteen-and-a-half years.

Most of the 58 victims suffocated as a result of the smoke and fumes; another 71 people were injured.

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 following the blaze.

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

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