Four dead including one firefighter in COVID quarantine hotel fire

Four people died, including one firefighter, and 22 people were injured after a fire in a building housing a quarantine hotel in Changhua City last night, June 30.

A fire broke out on the second floor of the 15-storey Qiaoyou Building at around 7:45 pm. Twenty-nine people under mandatory quarantine, and two employees were in the hotel on the 7th to 9th floors when the fire broke out.

Changhua County Fire Department received the first reports of the fire at 7:48 pm and dispatched 26 fire trucks and 14 ambulances to the scene.

By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to the third floor. While the fire did not spread to the higher floors, thick black smoke poured through the building, and along with lack of power, plunged the upper floors into pitch-black darkness creating a difficult rescue situation.

Ladder truck at scene of fire in Changhua City, June 30, 2021

Firefighting and search and rescue efforts continued until the fire was finally extinguished at around 3:00 am, and the last conscious occupant was rescued at 3:50 am.

A 34-year-old man named Ni, a 59-year-old man named Chen, and a 43-year-old female Indonesian migrant worker were found without vital signs, and were later declared dead at the hospital.

Mr Ni’s mandatory quarantine was due to end at midnight, but Ni had remained trapped in his room at that time.

Twenty-two people were sent to local hospitals suffering from smoke inhalation injuries, while another eight were relocated to other quarantine accommodation.

Firefighter Chen Zhifan, 33, was one of six firefighters equipped with breathing apparatus who were dispatched to go into the hotel to locate the occupants. Working in pairs, Chen’s partner retreated from the 9th floor due to an injury, according to reports in China Times and ET Today.

Chen was found unconscious in a bathtub of a suite on the 9th floor. Firefighters performed CPR on their colleague before sending him to hospital by ambulance, but Chen was declared dead shortly after arrival.

A preliminary investigation suggests that Chen’s breathing apparatus had run out of oxygen.

firefighter grieves for lost colleague
A firefighter reacts to news of the death of a colleague. Picture: Changhua residents Facebook group.

The Qiaoyou Building, located in front of the Changhua Railway Station, was formerly considered a landmark building in the city, but had fallen into disrepair in recent years.

After completion in 1993, the building housed a KTV, amusement parlors, and a department store. Yesterday’s fire was the fourth reported to have affected the building over the years.

Following a fire that occurred two years after its opening, the fortunes of the building went into decline. The building was eventually completely abandoned, becoming a haven for the homeless, and petty criminals. Locals even considered the building haunted, according to a report in Mirror Media.

In 2018, the owners of the building began an attempt to revitalize the building. The 7th, 8th, and 9th floors were redeveloped into a business travel hotel. More recently the “Passion Fruit Hotel” was turned into a quarantine hotel.

Fire and structural safety issues in the building are currently under investigation by the Changhua County Government.

exhausted firefighters
Exhausted firefighters after fire extinguished in which one firefighter and three other people died in Changhua City, July 1, 2021.
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