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Lack of fire safety a risk in high-rises

Update: October, 14/2015 - 08:38
Firefighters practise their skills on a high-rise building in Ha Noi's Cau Giay District. Negligence and ignorance of fire safety regulations by investors and residents at high-rise buildings have come to the public's attention following the latest blaze in Ha Noi. — VNA/VNS Photo The Duyet

HA NOI (VNS) — Negligence and ignorance of fire safety regulations by both investors and residents at high-rise buildings have again come to the fore following the latest blaze in Ha Noi.

The fire, which was reportedly started in the basement of the 34-storey CT4 buildings in Xa La urban area on Sunday night, damaged two parking levels in an area of 1,533 square metres. Some 200 motorbikes, 45 bicycles and one car have been reported burnt.

It was not until the recent case of fire in the Xa La urban area that people were worried about the risk. Just a month ago, there were two other fires at Building CT5 in Xa La Urban Area and Building HH4 in Linh Dam Urban Area. The causes of these cases and others that have happened at high-rise residential buildings around the city in recent years were all blamed on a lack of knowledge of fire safety regulations.

Tran Chung, chief of the Viet Nam Federation of Civil Engineering Association's Quality Division, said to Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that ensuring fire prevention and control at high-rise buildings had been neglected when it really should be a top priority.

"Investors are in a race of building high-rise buildings and selling the apartments while neglecting the safety rules," he said.

Chung said that the development of buildings to meet housing demand was proper but at the same time, investors must follow regulations and technical standards strictly.

"Ha Noi needs to have a thorough inspection campaign of all the fire safety systems of buildings," he said.

Colonel Nguyen Van Son, deputy director of the Ha Noi Department of Fire Prevention and Control, Rescue and Salvage, said that of the 892 constructions and high-rise buildings in Ha Noi, 60 had not undergone fire safety inspection. Up to 121 others had not passed inspection as they failed to meet regulations, he said.

A representative from the Ha Noi Department of Construction, who asked to keep his name anonymous, confirmed to Viet Nam News that it was the investors' responsibility to ensure fire safety regulations, saying that it was spelled out clearly in the Law on Fire Prevention and Control.

"The investors must take responsibility from the construction design, building and acceptance of construction work. They must ensure that construction will only be operated once it meets all requirements with inspection and approval from the related agencies," he said.

However, he admitted that on-the-site inspections of the department at many buildings around the city showed that fire fighting systems and regular checks on equipment were insufficient, especially at social housing projects.

"At some buildings, the equipment was just there and unusable while the maintenance and instructions for residents were ignored," he said.

No insurance

Under the Law on Fire Prevention and Control and the Ha Noi's regulations on high-rise buildings management, it is a must for buildings from five stories and up to have compulsory insurance from fire and explosions.

Many residents do not want to pay an extra sum of money for fire safety insurance as well as not seeing the fire risk as serious.

Nguyen Thanh Long, a resident at My Dinh 1 Urban Area insisted that it must be the responsibility of investors to pay for the insurance as it had been calculated in the price of the apartment at the beginning.

Besides, residents had to pay a maintenance fee for the apartment as well so the investors could use the money to pay for the insurance, he said.

Meanwhile, management boards said that they had already paid for compulsory insurance for the whole construction so the residents must pay the insurance for their own apartments.

Bui Hung Vuong, chief of management board of Building CT5 in Yen Xa Urban Area, said that the board had not received any instructions about buying the compulsory insurance.

Vuong said that information and instructions of fire safety regulations were spread through a notification board at a public place without direct drills.

The Ha Noi fire police officer Son said that when they came to buildings to perform fire prevention and control training, the attendants were very limited.

"Many households even just sent their domestic maids to attend while the apartment owners did not care about it at all," he said.

"Since the residents do not care about safety for their families, it's understandable that they panic quickly when fires happen," Son said.

According to the city's People's Committee, more than 2,100 fires have occurred in Ha Noi in the last 10 years, killing over 110 people, injuring about 270, and causing damage estimated at over VND705 billion ($31.3 million). On average, over 200 fires and explosions are reported each year, causing a loss of around VND70 billion ($3.1 million). — VNS

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