15 Dead in Nanjing Apartment Fire: Eyewitness Accounts of Escape, Complaints Previously Raised Over Electric Bike Parking

In the early hours of February 24, a press conference was held in Nanjing, China, to report on the fire incident that occurred in the Yuhuatai District on February 23. As of midnight on February 23, the fire had resulted in 15 fatalities and 44 individuals receiving hospital treatment. Among these, one person is in critical condition, one is severely injured, and 42 have sustained minor injuries, with all patients’ vital signs being stable. Preliminary analysis indicates the fire started in a parking area for electric bikes at the ground level of a six-building complex, with further investigation into the specific cause underway.

Photos obtained by Red Star News show the facade of Building 6 in the Ming Shang West Garden complex blackened from the first floor to the top floor, number 34. A resident of Unit 1 in Building 6 recalled that around 4:30 AM, they heard a strange noise and saw black smoke in the corridor when they went outside. After going downstairs, they noticed a large fire on the first floor accompanied by explosions. Fire was also observed on one of the floors in the middle of Unit 2, with two fire trucks already at the scene. After escaping, the resident took refuge in a relative’s home within the same community. Around 5 AM, passing by Unit 2 of Building 6 again, they witnessed the fire spreading from one floor in the middle to three floors, “It suddenly surged upwards.”

Mr. Pang, residing on the 16th floor of Building 6, Unit 2, recalled being awakened around 4 AM by an explosion from below and smelling something burning. Attempting to evacuate via the emergency exit, he had to return upstairs due to heavy smoke on the 7th floor, eventually taking shelter on the 27th floor. Close to 6 AM, Mr. Pang learned that the fire on the first floor had been extinguished, and upon descending, he saw the electric bikes on the first floor had been burned, with the fire in the middle of the building and the top floors extinguished.

A resident of the 18th floor of Building 6, Unit 2, shared that a fire had broken out in one of the apartments on their floor, with several residents using fire hoses to extinguish it. Videos shown to reporters depicted fire hoses laid out in the hallway and water on the floor. This resident’s family had received a call from a family on the 12th floor reporting a missing person, who was later found injured and taken to the hospital.

A resident of Building 5 nearby recalled noticing the fire in Building 6 around 5 AM, taking several photos showing flames in the windows of the middle and top floors of Unit 2. Another local resident recalled hearing someone shouting for help.

It was mentioned by several residents that electric bikes had been parked on the first floor of Building 6. Photos taken in the afternoon show part of the area on the first floor of Unit 2 cordoned off, with the specifics inside the corridor hard to discern, and remnants of burned vehicles, including frames and tires, surrounded by a significant amount of ash and charred vegetation.

According to The Paper, in April 2022, the Nanjing Broadcasting “Legal Scene” program reported that a fire had occurred in the community in 2019. Subsequently, complaints were raised and media attention garnered due to the parking of electric bikes in the overhead layer, i.e., the corridors next to the unit doors on the first floor, posing a fire hazard.

On February 23, in another building within the Ming Shang West Garden complex, the basement level was designated as a parking area for electric bikes, which saw fewer parked vehicles. The first-floor overhead layer housed a large number of electric bikes, equipped with specialized charging devices. Notices such as “Electric bikes and batteries are prohibited from entering buildings,” “Prevent fire hazards from electric bikes,” and “Parking in the lobby is forbidden” were posted on the walls. The “Ming Shang West Garden Patrol Sign-in Sheet” indicated that patrols were conducted nine times daily at set times, including at 3 AM, with checks for non-motorized vehicles being brought upstairs, battery charging, clutter, lighting, fire safety equipment, and potential safety hazards.