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At least 46 people died and dozens more were injured in a fire in a building in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city on Thursday. Firefighters dispatched more than 70 trucks to tackle the blaze, which they took four hours to put out.
An apartment building fire on Thursday (October 14th) killed at least 46 people and left dozens injured in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. “The fire left 41 injured and 46 dead,” city firefighters said in a statement.
The fire broke out in a 13-story mixed-use building in the wee hours of the day, authorities said, and ravaged several floors before firefighters managed to bring it under control.
Photos released by Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency showed smoke billowing from the building’s windows as firefighters desperately tried to put out the flames.
Most of the victims were between the seventh and eleventh floors, which housed residential apartments, firefighters said. The first five floors, intended for commercial use, were unoccupied.
City firefighters dispatched more than 70 trucks to tackle the blaze, which they took four hours to put out.
A possible arson
Residents said they heard a number of loud noises on the lower floors where the fire started.
“I heard many loud bangs – ‘bang, bang, bang’ – downstairs and went downstairs to investigate,” a resident of the building told Formosa TV who preferred to remain anonymous. . “It was then that I realized there was a fire and called the police,” he added.
Another survivor described on condition of anonymity her grueling escape. “When I opened the door to exit, the hallway was filled with black smoke,” she said.
A Kaohsiung police officer told AFP the building is 40 years old and mostly occupied by low-income residents. Survivors estimated that around 100 people lived in the building, according to the police officer. Authorities have yet to rule out the possibility of arson, he added.
Forensic teams were on site and further searches of the building were scheduled before sunset.
One of the deadliest fires
The fire is shaping up to be the deadliest in Taiwan for several decades. The last fire with a death toll of a similar magnitude dates back to 1995, when 64 people died in a crowded karaoke club. It was also one of the deadliest apartment building fires in 20 years worldwide.
Frequently hit by earthquakes and typhoons, Taiwan has strict building codes, but there is often a gap between these safety standards and the way they are enforced, especially in older buildings.
Some of the heaviest tolls in recent earthquakes have come from the collapse of old buildings, which were not designed up to standard.
Earlier this year, 49 people were killed when a train slammed into a truck that had slipped on the tracks, in the island’s worst rail disaster in decades. Subsequent investigations revealed that government agencies had ignored warnings about the possibility of such an accident on this particular stretch of mountainside.