Shanghai: Thousands gathered outside the charred frame of a 28-storey Shanghai apartment building on Sunday to mourn 58 people who died in Monday's fire, which has been blamed on lax oversight and illegal work practices.
Tearful family members of the victims began arriving at first light, laying flowers and wreaths before portraits of their deceased loved-ones.
By late morning, residents estimated that at least 10,000 people had come to pay their respects.
"It's not because she left this world that we say this, but she was so full of love and she loved her father and mother so much," said Chen Huiyang, who lost her 38-year-old cousin, Wang Fang, in the fire.
Police and volunteers maintained order as crowds lined up to place flowers at one of the entrances to the apartment building.
Many had organised online to converge on the street in front of the wreckage seven days after the fire, a common tradition of a mourning cycle in China which lasts up to seven weeks.
Acting quickly to salve residents' anxieties, Chinese police have detained 12 people in connection with the blaze, believed to have been caused by sparks from unlicensed welding at a building renovation site.
Project supervisors, building construction managers and property management were among those detained, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.
Officials looked to a speedy investigation to head off public disquiet in Shanghai, a city with an urban population of about 13 million which has just finished hosting an expo intended to showcase it as a modern, global metropolis.
The Shanghai government ordered fire-control and safety inspections throughout the city following the fire, and central government authorities have promised a crackdown on lax safety practices at construction sites and public areas in major cities across the country.
The breakneck speed of development and urban growth in China has posed a challenge for safety maintenance, though major fire disasters have been relatively rare compared with other developing countries.
One resident, who lost his mother in the fire, said investigators should be looking into all aspects of the disaster.
"At the scene of the fire, I felt that the fire fighters were doing their best to rescue people," said 52-year-old Ge Weidong.
"As to the technical aspects and the preparedness of their equipment, that is another matter," he said. "I feel that we should be looking at this disaster in an objective manner."
First Published: Sunday, November 21, 2010, 14:34