Hanoi – The death toll in a fire that ravaged a karaoke bar in southern Vietnam has risen to 32, state media said on Wednesday. The fire engulfed the second floor of the building on Tuesday night, trapping customers and staff as dense smoke filled the staircase and blocked the fire escape, according to reports.
Many huddled on a balcony to escape the flames, which quickly grew igniting the bar’s wooden interior, while others were forced to jump from the building, state media added.
Photos showed plumes of smoke billowing from the bar – located in a crowded residential area of Thuan An town, north of the commercial center of Ho Chi Minh City in Binh Duong province – as firefighters on ladders were trying to put out the fire.
Mai Hung Dung, a senior ruling Communist Party official in Binh Duong, told AFP earlier in the day that at least 23 people had been killed, but said the search for victims in the burnt-out bar was continuing. State-run media later updated the death toll to 32.
State media reported that eight people were found dead in the bar’s bathroom alone.
The original cause of the fire was an electrical short circuit, according to a report by Binh Duong authorities quoted by state media.
Witness Nguyen Sang, who lives near the karaoke bar, told the VnExpress news site that when fire engines arrived at the scene, a receptionist said there were 40 people trapped inside.
“Many people ran outside through the main entrance, but many more couldn’t stand the heat and jumped out, breaking their hands and legs,” Sang said.
Rescuers searched throughout the night for anyone trapped in the 30-room bar, according to state media. Police said the karaoke fire regulations were checked before the fire, he added.
In what was previously Vietnam’s deadliest blaze, 13 people died in a 2018 fire at an apartment complex in Ho Chi Minh City.
In 2016, a fire at a karaoke bar in the capital Hanoi killed 13 people, prompting a national assessment of fire prevention measures in bars and clubs.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday ordered a new inspection of high-risk venues, especially karaoke bars.
Last month, three firefighters died after trying to put out a fire at another karaoke bar in Hanoi.