A fire that broke out in a residential area revealed an apartment that had been illegally constructed on top of the building, reported Sichuan Online.
The owner of the "capsule apartment", Jiang Qunying, lives on the top floor of the seven-storey block at Tai Lai Neighbourhood in Chenghua District. She had constructed an additional area above her own apartment in 2006 and started renting it out more than a year ago.
The 80 square metres space was divided into six rooms with temporary board walls made of foam, housing ten tenants. The small space was cramped with blankets, clothes and other flammables. It took the firemen 20 minutes to put out the fire.
No one was in when the fire broke out on Sunday morning. A passerby at Zhanbei Lu, surnamed Zhang, said he saw thick black smoke coming out of the top floor, as well as a big ball of fire, at around 11am.
Jiang, who said she had spent about 50,000 yuan to repair the leaking roof earlier, even grabbed the fish tank from her own apartment, thinking she could battle with the flames.
Other blocks in the neighbourhood appear to contain illegally built areas too. The head of the property management office, Ms Tian Yun, said there are five to six illegally constructed areas in the neighbourhood which comprises 21 blocks, housing about 600 units.
The trend began in 2005 according to the property management office. The owners of the illegal units have been issued rectification notices previously and the situation was reported to the authorities but to no avail.
One of the tenants, Jiang Xuemei, said she lost her money, cards, household register and identification documents in the fire. She moved in with three friends at the end of last year. They were worried about the safety aspects but decided to stay there temporarily since it is near their workplace at the Lotus Market and comes with a low monthly rental of RMB280 per person.
Jiang Xuemei added that two of the rooms housed one tenant each and the remaining four rooms housed two people each.
Some tenants have not returned since the Spring Festival break. Jiang, the owner, finds it strange that the fire broke out when all the tenants were at work. "How can a fire suddenly break out in an apartment that has been around for years? Someone told me that he saw somebody lighting a fire in there," she said to the reporter.
While investigations are underway, the chief of Shuangshuinian Street Office of Urban Management and Enforcement, Zhang Hao, said the authorities will issue rectification notices to residents living in illegally built quarters and report accordingly to the Chengdu Planning Supervision Bureau.