A raging fire in a 13-story building, which started at 2 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, leaves at least 46 dead and 41 injured in the Yancheng district of the port city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
After an intense struggle to extinguish the flames, the 159 firefighters who rushed to the site with 75 vehicles took 5 hours to rescue a total of 87 people, according to Taiwan News of Oct. 14.
The building that was built 40 years ago was partially unoccupied, while 120 families resided between the seventh and eleventh floors.
Fire bureau chief Lee Ching-hsiu estimates that the death toll could rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
“We have teams searching for people on the seventh to eleventh floors, especially residents who have stayed or locked themselves in their units,” adding, “In those cases we will break down the doors and search inside,” Lee explained. Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the causes, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Kaohsiung City Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire by 7 a.m. Thursday, firefighters fought the blaze from the front ground level.
Using ladder trucks they sprayed the flames above and managed to rescue trapped residents.
The information obtained indicates that the fire started on the second floor where several stores were located.
In front of a second-hand appliance store, damaged refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners were found scattered.
Meanwhile, a woman standing on the street in front of the building told Formosa TV that she had been waiting for news of her elderly parents for 11 hours.
“They haven’t come out. I have called them on the phone, but they don’t answer,” she said, adding, “They are between 60 and 70 years old and can’t walk well.”
The building was home to people of limited means, and was already quite deteriorated. The building permit was granted in 1981 when there were no major requirements, and since then it had not been remodeled, since there were no people in charge of its administration.
In this regard, Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Charles Lin Chin-rong reported that it had been inspected by the Fire Department in 2019, and just three days earlier the visit had been repeated.
Mayor Chen Chi-mai and his cabinet issued an apology at an afternoon press conference, promising to reflect on the fire and improve the regulation of old buildings.
“There would be quite a few old buildings, such as Cheng Chung Cheng in Yancheng and other districts in Kaohsiung, which were built before the current fire regulations came into effect and are dilapidated, have complicated use and have disadvantaged tenants,” Chi-mai said.