On the evening of November 24, a high-rise apartment building in Urumqi, Xinjiang, that had been locked down for nearly four months, suddenly burned for nearly three hours. Within hours, an official said 10 people were dead and 9 injured, but conflicting information said that 44 people had died. Screams were heard at the scene, but Chinese officials overshadowed reports of the fire with another incident, causing great public outrage.
Fire in Xinjiang: More deaths than official statement
According to Xinhua News Agency, at 7:49 p.m. on November 24, a fire broke out in a high-rise in Tianshan District, Urumqi District and was extinguished at about 10:30 p.m. All the injured were taken to a hospital. they were being treated for smoke inhalation. Ten people died and 9 people suffered lung damage, which is not life-threatening. According to a preliminary investigation, the fire occurred due to a power surge in the bedroom of an apartment.
However, according to some videos circulating on the internet, after the fire truck arrived, it was blocked by lockdown fences and other items, so it was impossible to enter the residential area. Some netizens also said that the process of moving vehicles and fences had slowed down the rescue progress.
A video posted by netizen “Teacher Li is not your teacher” on November 24 revealed that the fire had been burning for more than half an hour and the fire truck could not enter the complex. These trapped people kept calling for help. The doors were sealed, they couldn’t get out so everyone had take refuge on the roof.
The Twitter account Milky Way posted a video and said, “Not 10, but 44 deaths” in the fire, including many children. However, this number is yet to be officially confirmed. In the video, the doors of the apartments are fixed from the outside with metal wires, so when there is a fire, people inside cannot escape.
Later, Xinhua News Agency cited an official notice to clarify that the apartment building was a “low-risk area for COVID-19 infection” and residents could leave, so the matter is not as rumored by netizens.
However, that official media notice made netizens even more suspicious, including why did it take nearly three hours to extinguish the fire, and why could pandemic measures in low-risk areas slow down the progress of fire fighting and rescue.
A Weibo user asked, why didn’t the official notice mention that the fire truck couldn’t enter the residential area? Dozens of lives lost, not a few.
According to reports, in response to the current outbreak, Xinjiang declared a complete lockdown on August 10, which has lasted for more than 100 days.
Purposely shifting the focus of public opinion?
What is even more paradoxical is that right after the fire in Xinjiang was attracting the outside world, Chinese media reported on the judgment of actor Wu Yifan, so the information about the “fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang” on Sina Weibo quickly “disappeared.”
This aroused discontent among Chinese people, who criticized authorities deliberately shifting the focus of public opinion.
Netizens left some messages:
One wrote, “The search trend has dropped. The safety of people’s lives and property is no match for a crime star.”
Another commented, “The Xinhua News Agency, CCTV News, People’s Daily are all concerned about Wu Yifan, but not the sufferings of our compatriots in Xinjiang, Zhengzhou, Neimeng, … Really speechless.”