China to prosecute 24 over fire
Authorities in China's commercial hub of Shanghai will prosecute 24 people for bribery and other crimes related to an apartment building fire that killed 58 people, state media has reported.
Those charged include local government officials, construction company heads, construction supervisors, and welders who lacked the proper qualifications, according to the China Daily newspaper.
The welders are blamed for causing the November 15 blaze by ignoring safety precautions.
Investigators found a construction company failed safety checks but won the contract for the project after bribing officials, the reports said.
China's work safety chief has blamed the fire on illegal contracting, unsafe materials and poorly supervised, unqualified workers.
The fire swept through the 28-storey building after welding sparks set alight nylon netting and bamboo scaffolding set up as part of an exterior renovation.
Most of the victims were overcome by smoke, toxic fumes and heat and died inside their own homes. Another 71 people were injured.
The fire occurred shortly after the close of the six-month World Expo, which was meant to show off Shanghai's development, and prompted deep mourning and complaints over the rescue response. The city is one of China's best-run, but its public services lag far behind its often ultra-modern infrastructure.
Unsafe construction work is a huge problem for China, and residents of the destroyed building complained that workers smoked on the job and left flammable materials piled on the scaffolding.
The fire also raised alarm over China's widespread efforts to meet energy efficiency targets by adding insulation to exteriors of existing buildings - the work the welders were doing when the fire started.