‘It Was a Sea of ​​Flames’: At least 46 killed in Taiwan Apartment Fire

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TAIPEI, Taiwan – At least 46 people were killed and dozens more injured after a fire broke out early Thursday at a large commercial and residential building in southern Taiwan that had deteriorated sharply in recent years, according to local officials and news reports.

At least 41 other people were treated for injuries, local fire officials said in Kaohsiung, the largest port city in Taiwan, where the fire broke out. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, says Lee Ching-hsiu, the city’s fire chief.

Surveillance images from an adjoining building showed a flash of light on the first floor, and soon the entire floor was engulfed in flames, according to local news reports. Pictures and videos circulating online showed surprised and soot-covered elderly residents being escorted out of the charred building, some on stretchers.

The firefighters received the first calls for help at 03 o’clock on Thursday and extinguished the fire about four hours later. In the afternoon, they were still looking for survivors in the 13-story building. The building was inhabited by about 120 families, mostly low-income earners and elderly residents who lived between the seventh and eleventh floors.

“It was a sea of ​​flames,” Lin Chuan-fu, 57, a Kaohsiung resident living near the building, said in a telephone interview.

Lin said that a loud explosion woke him up at 3 o’clock and he went into the street to see what happened. He said the flames had moved rapidly from the ground floor to the higher floors. He added that he was worried that some of the elderly residents living on the higher floors would have had difficulty evacuating in the dark.

“They may not have had enough time to get out,” he said.

The 1980s building is located on the 13-story building near Love River in central Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s third largest city. Conditions in the once prosperous building began to deteriorate after a fire broke out in the building in 1999, according to local reports. While no one died in that fire, the building was partially abandoned, and house benders and players began to move in. Among the locals, it became known as “Kaohsiung’s Ghost Building No. 1”.

The latest photos and video showed what appeared to be disturbing security conditions inside the building, including visible electrical cables, corroded water pipes and piles of debris blocking dark stairwells.

Several developers tried to take over and renovate the building in recent years, according to Apple Daily, a local news store. But these efforts met with opposition from the building’s occupants.

Lin Chin-rong, Kaohsiung’s deputy mayor, said the building had been inspected by police and firefighters four times since 2019. He said an inspection notice had been posted on the building as late as Tuesday, but that a barrier had prevented firefighters from leaving. to the higher floors.

He said local fire officials and government construction workers had been in contact with the building’s self-proclaimed representatives in the days before the fire broke out.

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