TAIPEI —— At least 46 people have been killed and more than 40 injured after a fire ravaged a large mixed-use building in southern Taiwan, local officials said.
The fire in the industrial port city of Kaohsiung began shortly before 3 a.m. on Thursday in a partially abandoned 13-story commercial and residential tower occupied by 120 households, the city’s fire department said. It was Taiwan’s deadliest fire in more than two decades.
“Due to the extremely violent fire, many floors were badly burned,” the fire department said, adding that the structure was old and decaying, with mess piled up inside, hampering rescue operations. The blaze burned for four hours before being extinguished, he said.
Thirty-two of the deaths were declared dead at the scene, with the others having died after being sent to hospital, according to local authorities.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and human factors cannot be excluded, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-Mai told reporters on Thursday, citing the possibility of arson.
Hsu Ming-yuan, a 39-year-old Kaohsiung resident who lives near the building, said he was woken up by sirens shortly before 3 a.m. and noticed smoke billowing from the first floor of the building. the building. He didn’t think it was serious until he woke up again two hours later to see more than 60 fire trucks swarming the area and huge flames consuming the structure.
“It was so big, really huge, everything was on fire,” Hsu said of the blaze. “I didn’t think the firefighters could come in to save anyone. “
“We send our deepest condolences to the victims and hope that the injured will recover soon,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wrote in a social media post.
Thursday’s fire was the deadliest in Taiwan since a fire broke out at a restaurant in Taichung City in 1995, killing 64 people. This year, Taiwan also suffered a train derailment in April that killed more than 50 passengers and marked the island’s deadliest train incident. in at least four decades.
Kaohsiung, a city of nearly 3 million people, was the scene of a deadly incident in 2014, when a series of underground explosions triggered by a gas leak left 32 dead and more than 300 injured, causing deep craters in the roads.
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