Friday, September 07, 2012

First World v Third World

How absolutely horrible. A fire in a Bankstown, Sydney, flat forced two trapped women  to jump from a fifth floor window, one dying and the other being badly injured.

The were both Chinese Nationals and students studying here.

Now China is not known for its high fire safety standards in buildings. In fact because of corruption, I don't know that I would trust a brand new building's fire systems in China. It may appear to be satisfactory, but are all those sprinkler heads actually connected to a water source? Are they frequently checked and maintained?

But this is Australia. We have high fire safety standards for our buildings. Well, apparently not even in apartment blocks that don't look so old.

The Bankstown block of flats did not have sprinklers and a fireman said it was very unlikely such a design would be approved now. The fire proof door, supposedly to be able to withstand a blaze for an hour, disappeared in minutes. Thick smoke filled the central atrium, making difficult for other residents in the building to escape.

It is rather ironical that the two unfortunate lasses came from a third world country with a poor fire safety record, to a first world country with supposed impeccable fire standards.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    This is very sad and very worrying that even today in a country with such high standards of safety as we imagine Australia to have, a tragedy such as this can happen so very easily.

  2. I'm quite curious about references to fire doors, and fire stairs. Is the requirement for fire doors/stairs governed by the number of floors in a building?

    Blocks of flats 3 or 4 stories high with only one central staircase, and flats with only one entrance/exit door are so common.

    Regulations aside, it's awful to think this building has a reputation for fires!.

    This is an awful tragedy, and my heart goes out to parents and family who are so far away, and probably frantic about how long and how much it will take to get to sydney.

  3. I was so sad when I heard the news report about this fire on the radio. What a horrible choice to have to make for those jumping, and those scenes will be forever embedded in the mind of those who witnessed it :(

  4. I heard about this and learned the survivor had a broken leg from her jump. The next day in the paper I read that she is severely injured.
    There are too many blocks of flats that don't have proper fire safety precautions in place. The fireproof door should have been metal of some sort. I'm not sure precautions is the right word, but you know what I mean. Especially those big high rise blocks, 8 or 10 stories high, many small flats per floor and many blocks of these per building block. The high density flats. My own building is only two stories high and each flat has a back and front door, even from the upper level it would be easy enough to hang from the balcony and drop to the ground (or slide down the drainpipe) if the stairwell was compromised.

  5. You hit it on the head Andrew, for these two ladies to come to Australia to improve their living standards and something unnecessary like this happens is too shocking, hopefully someone's head rolled!

  6. JayLa, living in the type of building we live in, I take such matters very seriously.

    FC, I should think it is as you suggest. The higher the building, the higher the risk, the more safety precautions are required. The parental unplanned overseas trip to see your dead child must be awful, as also experienced by the parents of the Irish lad who died after the hammer assault.

    Fen, at the end I don't think it was a choice. They were getting burnt. Just as horrible, whatever.

    Quite right River. Anything built in the last twenty or so years should be ok, but earlier than that, there weren't a lot of fire safety features. I doubt Melbourne's high rise public housing buildings would have sprinklers. As you say, nothing is better than having two external doors.

    Grace, I am not sure if anyone is up for blame, apart from perhaps the authorities for not insisting on higher standards being applied retrospectively, which is very expensive.

  7. When I heard the reports of the couple jumping from the window I was immediately reminded of those shocking images of people free falling from the Twin Towers in New York.

  8. Victor, I think that was in all our minds.