Han Han on the Shanghai Fire

Likely, you’ve already heard about the terrible fire in Shanghai that claimed the lives of over fifty people, many of them retired schoolteachers. Shanghaiist has been covering the story thoroughly, and we suggest you check there for the latest updates. But even Han Han, (who has recently been refusing interviews and barely updating his blog, probably in part because his magazine has been reportedly shut down), has addressed this issue, making several posts about the fire. One is a collection of photos, the other talks about his experience watching the fire (which he happened to be close to) before getting into some of his thoughts on how it happened and how people should view it:

In this post, I won’t bother singing the praises of anyone, because you can see how the fire is being controlled, the heroic rescue efforts, the stabilized feelings of family members [of victims], the leaders’ consoling words, and the residents [who survived] weeping with joy, etc., on the evening news. I’m just thinking, I’m living in a city full of tall buildings like [that one]. It was 28 stories high, but the firemen’s water guns could only reach six or seven stories up. From where I stood, I saw one ladder that reached beyond the 20th floor, but most couldn’t reach 20. Helicopters were useless to rescue anyone and could only watch. Of course, this was a very remarkable fire, perhaps it’s true that regardless of the number of firefighters and helicopters, regardless of how high the ladders went, nothing could be done. But perhaps a few more people could have been saved. I think Shanghai has shown the tools it has to combat fires in high rises, and all I can say is that it’s not enough.

Additionally, this was a nice building, not one that looked old and beaten up. I really don’t understand what they were renovating on the outside, and all of the scaffolding and nets are flammable. If you gave me a lighter and told me to burn down a 28-storey building, that would be difficult, but with this particular building, you would just have to light the safety netting at the bottom; the outcome would be the same as what actually happened. The reasons for this disaster are poor fire prevention [standards] and the baffling renovations, but I expect the reason for the renovation was beautification, saving energy, [etc.] Residential buildings aren’t as good as office buildings and the fire safety equipment inside is not perfect; wouldn’t it be better to fully renovate the inside of the building [i.e., update the fire safety equipment, etc.] rather than beautify its outside?

Finally, I’ve discovered that before every important gathering, there are fireworks, but after every important meeting, there is a disastrous fire. After the Olympics, the CCTV Hotel burned; after the Expo, a big apartment building burned. The latter was worse; the media is now reporting that 12 people died [this number is old, the death toll is now above 50], but from what I saw, when the firefighters enter the building and finish their search tomorrow morning, that number will certainly rise. There are those who say that after a disaster, we should do our best to provide relief, to help the grieving, and shouldn’t go searching for answers or make statements [about the disaster], it’s not the right time for that. But if you don’t question things, it just becomes an act-of-God natural disaster, the officials seize the opportunity and harmonize the media, and in the end it becomes a way for them to congratulate themselves on their own success. This has already become a constant. You can’t take out your anger that there is no answer on those who are asking the questions. So, what is your question?

0 thoughts on “Han Han on the Shanghai Fire”

  1. Pretty scary stuff, since I actually have a property in a 28 floor building in the JingAn district. It’s incredible to me that a building made up out of concrete can be burned down so easily.

    Since this happened in Shanghai (at the time of Diane Sawyer visit nonetheless) I think this is more difficult for the government to sweep under the rug. So I am thinking the government will push for more strict laws around construction and building. However this will only bring up the next question which is how can the government enforce the new, more strict, construction codes.


  2. “But if you don’t question things, it just becomes an act-of-God natural disaster”

    Really? How about a day or two out of respect for those who died? No one thinks a building burning down was a natural disaster.

    ” the officials seize the opportunity and harmonize the media, and in the end it becomes a way for them to congratulate themselves on their own success”

    Nobody’s bragging about this fire, dude. Then again, cooler heads gave up on Chinese nightly news as a source of reliable news anyway.


  3. Think about this from the family’s perspective. Wouldn’t you want to know who was responsible for this before it gets swept under the rug? Wouldn’t you want to know why the firefighters’ equipment still hasn’t been modernized? Or why the builders couldn’t be bothered to make their building safe? I would, and I wouldn’t be waiting too long to ask such questions.


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