BEIJING - Two young Chinese firefighters who fell to their deaths during a blaze in a highrise building are being hailed as heroes of their generation on social media.
Qian Lingyun and Liu Jie died Thursday while responding to the fire in an apartment on the 13th floor of the building in Shanghai, China's commercial capital, according to the city's fire department.
As firefighters were breaking down the apartment door, a sudden blast occurred and hot air and smoke blew out into the floor's elevator area where Qian and Liu were, the department said.
The force blew them through an open window from where they plunged to a terrace above the building's entrance.
A dramatic photo of the two men in freefall from the building was published on the front page of the Beijing News daily on Friday.
The fire department did not give the men's exact ages, but said that Qian was born in 1991, while Liu was born in 1994.
"You are heroes," said a message posted Saturday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog similar to Twitter.
"Heaven needs the brave like you," said another, which included two images of burning candles to signify remembrance.
Some questioned whether the deaths could have been prevented.
"It looks more like a safety accident," said one post.
"(Didn't they) think about the blast before breaking the door?"
Qian's last post on his weibo account suggested the difficulty of his work as a firefighter.
"It's not been easy this year, still more than a half year to go!", he wrote. "I'm holding on!"
As of Saturday morning there were 92,340 comments left on his final post by social media users.
"An ordinary person has shown us an extraordinary heart," wrote one. "Good-bye our hero, rest in peace."
"You explained to the world that the generation born after 1990 is courageous - not a crumbling generation," said one post, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper on Saturday.
"Thank you, my heroes."
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