‘I Felt Like I Couldn’t Go On’: Survivor Recounts Escaping China Building Fire That Killed 15

On Feb. 23, a fire ripped through an apartment block in Nanjing, China, leaving at least 15 dead and 44 injured. Chinese officials reported after preliminary investigation that the blaze started on the building’s first floor, where electric bikes had been placed.According to official reports on the following day, the building where the fire broke out had 34 floors, and the fire spread upwards through the stairwell. In the past, fires and other deadly accidents often occur in China due to lax enforcement of safety standards.As early as 2020, residents in the apartment complex had repeatedly reported problems with electric bikes parked in the first-floor parking lot to the property management, but no substantial measures were taken. A small fire occurred in 2019 from the parked electric bikes.Eyewitness’ Account“It was too terrifying,” said Li Sisi (alias), who lives on the 20th floor of the building. She described her escape experience with her middle school-aged son in the early hours of Feb. 23 when the fire occurred.Ms. Li spoke to The Epoch Times on the night of Feb. 24 and said she had a chilling escape experience. When she and her son were rescued by firefighters, they found that their faces and bodies were all covered by soot. “There were many unexpected obstacles at that time, and just a little incident could have meant we wouldn’t have survived,” she said.At about 4:39 a.m. on Feb. 23, Ms. Li, who was asleep, was awakened by cries for help. She opened the curtains and noticed thick smoke rising outside, realizing there was a fire. She quickly called her son, who was sleeping in another room.“I grabbed him a set of clothes,” she said. “I didn’t even have pants on myself. Then I just took my phone and keys and ran out immediately.”Related Stories11/29/202311/29/2023Upon opening the door, she said the entire hallway was filled with thick smoke, blocking all visibility. Neighbors also ran out of their homes but could not see each other due to the black smoke.She dragged her son down the stairs through the fire exit. “We didn’t have wet towels or anything [to cover our nose]. I didn’t think of it at the time.”They ran down several floors but could not continue due to the toxic black smoke. So they returned upstairs. Fortunately, there were windows in the fire exit stairs, and many people stood by the windows to breathe some relatively fresh air to survive.Ms. Li said that emergency services on the phone advised them that if there were no fire in their room, it would be best to wait for rescue inside.“We had already come out. There was no going back. At that time, my head was dizzy, and my legs felt weak. I felt like I couldn’t go on. I was just thinking about who could take my child downstairs,” she said.Eventually, a firefighter came down from upstairs and led them to the first floor. Until now, she has no idea how many people were in the building at the time. In the end, she just followed the firefighters to escape. She and her son escaped safely with only some minor bruises.Ms. Li and more than 500 other residents have been arranged to stay in a hotel, and it is unclear how long they will stay there.“I don’t want to stay here anymore, and many people don’t want to stay either. We'll see how the community arranges [our accommodation] next,” she said.Past NegligenceFires and accidents due to negligence from Chinese officials were not uncommon in the past, as lax enforcement of safety standards is prevalent in China.In January, 39 people were killed in Xinyu, a city in Jiangxi Province, China, in a deadly building fire. The accident was caused by unauthorized renovation work by workers who violated various safety regulations. The Chinese public openly criticized officials for their negligence of public safety standards.Last April, a hospital fire in Beijing killed 29 people, but Chinese state media censored news of the deadly accident until eight hours after firefighters answered the calls for help. The Chinese authorities arrested a dozen officials suspected of gross negligence, including the hospital’s director and construction workers.In Nov. 2022, during China’s draconian COVID-19 lockdown, a fire in an apartment block in Urumqi claimed the lives of 10 people. At the time, residents were only allowed to leave their apartments for short periods of time each day for necessary grocery shopping. Videos circulating online showed workers attempting to remove erected fences to prevent the people from leaving their homes while the firefighters waited to get to the building compound.The Urumqi fire subsequently became one of the themes of the 2022 “White Paper Protests“ across the country against the Chinese regime’s inhumane COVID-19 lockdowns. The public was angered by the regime’s lockdown measures that have completely ignored the necessary needs of the people, leading to slow response from emergency services.

‘I Felt Like I Couldn’t Go On’: Survivor Recounts Escaping China Building Fire That Killed 15

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On Feb. 23, a fire ripped through an apartment block in Nanjing, China, leaving at least 15 dead and 44 injured. Chinese officials reported after preliminary investigation that the blaze started on the building’s first floor, where electric bikes had been placed.

According to official reports on the following day, the building where the fire broke out had 34 floors, and the fire spread upwards through the stairwell. In the past, fires and other deadly accidents often occur in China due to lax enforcement of safety standards.

As early as 2020, residents in the apartment complex had repeatedly reported problems with electric bikes parked in the first-floor parking lot to the property management, but no substantial measures were taken. A small fire occurred in 2019 from the parked electric bikes.

.

Eyewitness’ Account

“It was too terrifying,” said Li Sisi (alias), who lives on the 20th floor of the building. She described her escape experience with her middle school-aged son in the early hours of Feb. 23 when the fire occurred.

Ms. Li spoke to The Epoch Times on the night of Feb. 24 and said she had a chilling escape experience. When she and her son were rescued by firefighters, they found that their faces and bodies were all covered by soot. “There were many unexpected obstacles at that time, and just a little incident could have meant we wouldn’t have survived,” she said.

At about 4:39 a.m. on Feb. 23, Ms. Li, who was asleep, was awakened by cries for help. She opened the curtains and noticed thick smoke rising outside, realizing there was a fire. She quickly called her son, who was sleeping in another room.

“I grabbed him a set of clothes,” she said. “I didn’t even have pants on myself. Then I just took my phone and keys and ran out immediately.”

Upon opening the door, she said the entire hallway was filled with thick smoke, blocking all visibility. Neighbors also ran out of their homes but could not see each other due to the black smoke.

She dragged her son down the stairs through the fire exit. “We didn’t have wet towels or anything [to cover our nose]. I didn’t think of it at the time.”

They ran down several floors but could not continue due to the toxic black smoke. So they returned upstairs. Fortunately, there were windows in the fire exit stairs, and many people stood by the windows to breathe some relatively fresh air to survive.

Ms. Li said that emergency services on the phone advised them that if there were no fire in their room, it would be best to wait for rescue inside.

“We had already come out. There was no going back. At that time, my head was dizzy, and my legs felt weak. I felt like I couldn’t go on. I was just thinking about who could take my child downstairs,” she said.

Eventually, a firefighter came down from upstairs and led them to the first floor. Until now, she has no idea how many people were in the building at the time. In the end, she just followed the firefighters to escape. She and her son escaped safely with only some minor bruises.

Ms. Li and more than 500 other residents have been arranged to stay in a hotel, and it is unclear how long they will stay there.

“I don’t want to stay here anymore, and many people don’t want to stay either. We'll see how the community arranges [our accommodation] next,” she said.

.

Past Negligence

Fires and accidents due to negligence from Chinese officials were not uncommon in the past, as lax enforcement of safety standards is prevalent in China.

In January, 39 people were killed in Xinyu, a city in Jiangxi Province, China, in a deadly building fire. The accident was caused by unauthorized renovation work by workers who violated various safety regulations. The Chinese public openly criticized officials for their negligence of public safety standards.

Last April, a hospital fire in Beijing killed 29 people, but Chinese state media censored news of the deadly accident until eight hours after firefighters answered the calls for help. The Chinese authorities arrested a dozen officials suspected of gross negligence, including the hospital’s director and construction workers.
.
In Nov. 2022, during China’s draconian COVID-19 lockdown, a fire in an apartment block in Urumqi claimed the lives of 10 people. At the time, residents were only allowed to leave their apartments for short periods of time each day for necessary grocery shopping. Videos circulating online showed workers attempting to remove erected fences to prevent the people from leaving their homes while the firefighters waited to get to the building compound.
.
The Urumqi fire subsequently became one of the themes of the 2022 “White Paper Protests“ across the country against the Chinese regime’s inhumane COVID-19 lockdowns. The public was angered by the regime’s lockdown measures that have completely ignored the necessary needs of the people, leading to slow response from emergency services.
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