KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN —
Taiwanese officers arrange an unbiased fee Friday to research the circumstances at a run-down constructing within the port metropolis of Kaohsiung the place a fireplace killed 46, whereas authorities scoured the blackened ruins for the reason for the blaze.
Prosecutor Hong Ruei-fen instructed reporters on the scene she would search to find out the reason for Thursday’s fireplace as quickly as doable, earlier than donning a tough hat and strolling into the cordoned-off constructing within the morning.
Outdoors, a Taoist priest in conventional robes chanted a prayer for many who died, a lot of whom have been aged or infirm residents unable to get out of the 13-story constructing after the fireplace broke out on the bottom ground.
The town’s administration stated the constructing had been required to comply with fireplace codes and undergo inspections, however that inspectors had not been in a position to entry the premises lately as a result of the doorways have been all the time locked and so they have been unable to coordinate visits with the property house owners.
Mayor Chen Chi-mai introduced that he had ordered his deputy to arrange an unbiased staff to research whether or not negligence contributed to the tragic fireplace, through which one other 41 individuals have been injured.
Of the 46 useless, Chen stated there have been 21 who had nonetheless not been recognized. He stated consultants hoped to make use of fingerprint evaluation to find out who the opposite 19 useless have been, however for 2 others they must depend on different strategies.
The constructing had industrial amenities on decrease flooring, a closed film theatre, eating places and a karaoke bar — most out of enterprise — and a few 120 housing items above.
The hearth broke out within the decrease space at about 3 a.m. Thursday, and witnesses reported listening to a loud sound like an explosion. It took firefighters till after 7 a.m. to totally extinguish the blaze.
Native media say police have been questioning a feminine resident of the constructing who allegedly discarded a burning incense coil in a trash can contained in the residence the place she had additionally saved small fuel canisters. A person who carelessly discarded a cigarette exterior the constructing and the potential of a fireplace within the electrical system have been additionally being investigated, the experiences stated.
In keeping with neighborhood residents, the constructing was residence to many poor, older and disabled individuals, and plenty of seem to have been trapped of their residences.
Lee Mao-sheng, 61, who lives throughout the road, stated his good friend Tseng Yong-kang was wheelchair-bound and died within the fireplace.
Previously, the 2 would play mahjong collectively however Lee stated he hadn’t seen his good friend shortly as a result of door within the constructing’s elevator continuously did not open and residents did not have the cash to keep up it.
“The individuals who lived inside, a lot of them weren’t in good well being. Lots of them had a incapacity,” Lee stated. Low-cost hire was the primary motive individuals lived there underneath lower than excellent circumstances, he stated.
On Friday morning, a wire mesh fence and supporting scaffolding cordoned off the constructing and the road in entrance was open once more to visitors. The constructing didn’t appear in fast hazard of collapse, although its decrease flooring have been blackened and smoke marked the exteriors of the higher residences.
Tsai Hsiu-Chin, 70, who had lived within the constructing for 15 years, stated she escaped with simply the clothes on her again after listening to somebody screaming “fireplace” at 3 a.m.
“I did not carry something. I simply cared about saving my life,” she stated, sitting reverse the charred constructing on Thursday night time, attempting to course of her expertise over a beer with a good friend.
The constructing’s age and piles of particles blocking entry to many areas sophisticated search and rescue efforts, officers stated, in response to Taiwan’s Central Information Company.
The decades-old residence constructing is considered one of many within the Yancheng district, an older a part of Kaohsiung, a metropolis of some 2.8 million individuals in southwestern Taiwan.
Fireplace extinguishers had been put in final month, however solely three per ground as a result of the residents couldn’t afford to pay extra, the United Each day Information, a significant newspaper, reported.
A 1995 fireplace at a nightclub in Taichung, Taiwan’s third-largest metropolis, killed 64 individuals within the nation’s deadliest such catastrophe in latest occasions.
Taijing Wu contributed to this story.