Officials said that at least 46 people died and 41 others were injured in Thursday’s fire in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s port city.
Residents said that the building, which was 13 stories tall, was home to many elderly and poor people. It wasn’t known how many of its 120 units were occupied.
Witnesses claimed that they heard a loud explosion on the lower floors of the building at 3:00 a.m. The blaze broke out in the basement, which was home to a closed movie theatre, abandoned restaurants, and karaoke bars.
Lin Chie-ying claimed that she was awakened in her home by the sounds from fire trucks and ambulances.
She said, “I believed our home would also burn up.”
This apartment building is just one of many located in Yancheng, an older area of Kaohsiung that houses approximately 2.8 million people.
Mayor Chen Chi Mai stated that Yancheng and their families were in great pain. He also apologized for his actions. “Here, I would like to convey my deepest sorrow and condolences to all those who were hurt and died, their families, and all residents.”
The fire was extinguished by firefighters only after 7 a.m. It appeared that many of the upper floors were not directly damaged.
The area was still smelling of smoke late in the afternoon, and shattering glass could be heard. To remove any further danger, construction workers were lifted onto a crane to cut the glass remaining in window frames using a crowbar.
On Thursday, first responders searched through wreckage and found dozens of bodies. 14 more bodies were found in the wreckage and confirmed dead upon arrival at the hospital.
According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, the building’s age, and the piles of debris that blocked access to many areas, complicated rescue and search efforts.
Although it appears that the fire started on the ground floor, the exact location and cause of the fire are still unknown.
According to the United Daily News, investigators are focusing their attention on the first floor tea shop where fire started. Police also investigate a resident who was allegedly involved in a fight with his girlfriend on Wednesday. According to the newspaper, they had not yet ruled out arson.
According to the United Daily News, there were only three fire extinguishers installed on each floor last month because residents couldn’t afford more.
64 people were killed in a 1995 fire in Taichung’s nightclub, Taiwan’s third largest city. It was the country’s worst natural disaster.