Deadly fire in Nanjing sparks scrutiny of e-bike hazards

BEIJING: The municipal authorities in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, have begun a citywide check of potential fire hazards, especially those related to e-bikes, after a fire in a high-rise residential building killed 15 and injured 44 early on Friday (Feb 23) morning.

The fire was put out at 6am the same day, about one and a half hours after it broke out, and the search and rescue work was concluded at 2pm that day. The fire is believed to have been caused by electric bikes parked on the ground floor.

The 30-plus-storied building in Nanjing comprises about 400 apartments, and is one of six buildings of the same size in the government-subsidized neighborhood built in 2013 in downtown Nanjing.

Like the other five buildings in the same neighborhood, the building's ground floor area, which is not built with outer walls, was a public space that was turned into a parking lot for electric bikes, bicycles and motorcycles, where charging posts for e-bikes are also installed.

The State regulations strictly ban charging e-bikes or their batteries or even parking e-bikes in buildings, be they residential or office ones.

But the builders and property managers still turned the ground floor of these apartment blocks into parking and charging sites for e-bikes. That the ground floor has no outer boundary walls does not mean it does not belong to the building.

To some extent, such an arrangement is even more dangerous as it puts all the residents living right above at risk. The broad open space and no-outer-wall structure of the ground floor, only acted as an air blower fanning the flames and blowing the deadly smoke up all kinds of corridors and pipelines upstairs. That's an important reason why the fire could rapidly spread from the ground floor to the top of the building.

Statistics show that about 80 per cent of e-bike fires, which happen in an explosive way in seconds, making them almost uncontrollable, occur while charging, and more than half of them occur during charging at night.

Not to mention the fact that modification of the batteries and e-bikes to raise their speed and load capacity far beyond national standards is almost an open business in many cities.

About 21,000 e-bike-caused fires were reported nationwide in 2023, an increase of 17.4 per cent compared to 2022, in contrast with 18,000 fires caused by e-bikes in 2022, which was up 23.4 per cent from the number in 2021.

As the largest manufacturer and consumer of e-bikes — one out of every four Chinese people has an e-bike on average — and a country that has moved the most people into high-rise buildings in fast expanding cities over the past decade, the authorities are obliged to take more concrete actions to prevent the commonest means of transport in the country from becoming a threat to life. - China Daily/ANN

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China , Nanjing , fire , e-bikes


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