At least 20 people have died, and around 50 are injured, after a fire broke out in a 13-storey building in Kaohsiung City in the early hours of the morning today, October 14.
Kaohsiung City Fire Department received reports of a fire in the mixed residential and commercial Chengzhongcheng Building on Fubei Road in Yancheng District at 2:54 am, Thursday.
The fire department dispatched 72 vehicles and 145 personnel to battle the blaze. Firefighters found an intense fire fueled by a large amount of debris stored on the lower floors of the building.
Firefighters deployed waterlines to fight the fire, while ladder trucks were used to evacuate residents from upper floors.
The fire was brought under control at around 4:50 am, and finally extinguished at around 7:15 am.
The two underground levels and first to fifth floors of the more than 40-year-old building were not in use, having in the past housed restaurants and movie theaters. However, there are 120 residential households from the 7th to 11th floors.
After extinguishing the fire, firefighters conducted a floor-by-floor, household-by-household search for survivors and casualties. At 10:30 am, a 70-year-old man was found alive after being trapped in his 9th floor apartment for around 8 hours. The man was taken to hospital for a medical examination and treatment.
According to reports, 62 people were sent to hospital, the oldest was an 83-year-old woman, and the youngest was an 8-year-old girl. As of noon, 15 people were reported to have lost vital signs before arriving at the hospital, and 11 had been declared dead. Nine people were found dead in the building, and not taken to hospital.
One firefighter is counted among the injured.
Kaohsiung City Mayor, Chen Chi-mai went to the scene of the fire. Speaking to the media this morning, Chen said that a suspect had been identified and is being investigated, and that the possibility of arson had not been ruled out.
A total of four people had been brought in for questioning, including witnesses and suspects, the Mayor said.
According to a preliminary investigation, a man living opposite to the building had witnessed smoke billowing out of an abandoned store on the first floor, and had seen a man taking a water hose, in a suspected attempt to extinguish the fire. However, the fire intensified, and the man was seen running away.
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