Shanghai high-rise inferno death toll hits 53

The death toll in the towering inferno that scarred the Shanghai skyline on Monday has risen to 53, according to Chinese officials.

This is a conservative number compared with the 79 deaths reported by the Xinhua News Agency, which authorities said was inaccurate, The Associated Pres reports.

Twenty-six of the 53 have been identified, which officials said the news outlet mistook as being in addition to the number of dead.

The high-rise blaze burned for nearly five hours in the city’s Jing’an District. More than two dozen fire units battled the flames, which burned through most of the 28-story Teachers Apartments, along with 61 engine companies.

More than 150 families reportedly lived in the building, many of whom were retired teachers. Authorities have not offered information on how many more people may be missing.

Authorities have detained four unlicensed welders who were working on the site. It is believed that sparks from their equipment ignited the blaze. Bamboo scaffolding and nylon nets that surrounded the building caught fire as renovations were underway.

Unsafe building work remains a chronic problem in China. Last year, a nearly finished 13-story apartment building in Shanghai collapsed, killing one worker.

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