Dozens of people die in a high-rise fire in Taiwan

Dozens of people lost their lives in a devastating fire in Taiwan. The fire brigade is in action with a large number in the 13-story building known as the “haunted house”.

At least 46 people were killed in a fire in a high-rise building in the southern Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung. More than 40 people were injured, as the fire department reported on Thursday. Many of the mostly elderly residents were trapped by the flames and smoke on the upper floors. Escape routes were also blocked – among other things by garbage and junk, it said.

You can see recordings of the fire and the extinguishing work in the video above or here.

The 13-story residential and commercial building, which was also known as the “haunted house” because of the vacant commercial rooms on the lower floors, burned for more than five hours. More than 100 people, most of them seniors with physical disabilities or dementia, lived on the upper floors of the derelict building, city fire chief Lee Ching-hsiu told the CNA news agency.

Firefighters and rescue workers stand in front of a skyscraper in the city center during fire fighting. (Source: Handout / Fire Bureau Of Kaohsiun / ZUMA Press Wire / dpa)

Around 120 households are affected

Many could not have managed to leave the burning house, a local official said. He reported that he was woken up by a loud explosion in the middle of the night. Then he saw the flames in the building. In the inhabited part of the high-rise between the seventh and eleventh floors, there are said to have been around 120 households. The lower six floors were empty restaurants, karaoke clubs, and a movie theater.

The fire broke out on the first floor of the 40-year-old house for a previously unknown cause. By morning around 150 firefighters had brought the fire under control. Then the search for the victims began. The number of confirmed dead climbed every hour. Most of them succumbed to smoke inhalation, reported the fire department.

“Fire, fire, run!”

A cook who lived on the ninth floor told the Apple Daily newspaper that he was asleep when, around three o’clock, someone loudly said, “Fire, fire, run!” have called. Smoke had entered his apartment. He had taken the elevator down with another resident. But when the elevator door on the first floor opened, thick smoke hit them.

“It took my breath away,” said the cook. “Scary. I couldn’t see my five fingers in front of my eyes.” They did not dare to get out of the elevator, went back up and then took an emergency staircase down, he told the paper.

City officials said the building was in poor condition. The blockade of the escape routes raises questions about property management and maintenance. The building also reportedly did not have a building management committee. MP Chao Tien-lin from the ruling Progressive Party DPP told local journalists that as a consequence of the disaster, the rules for property management had to be revised in order to better ensure the safety of older houses in Taiwan in the future.

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