On Oct. 14, fire swept through a partially abandoned 13-story tower in the southern Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung claiming at least 46 lives and injuring dozens of others. The blaze is being described as Taiwan’s deadliest fire in more than two decades, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The fire erupted just before 3 a.m. on Thursday prompting the city’s fire department to dispatch more than 60 fire trucks.
The building, which was a mixed commercial and residential tower, is said to have been home to around 120 households, many of the residents being elderly and disabled.
A resident in the area said he heard an explosion at approximately 2:40 a.m. and then saw the building erupt into flames as witnesses frantically attempted to alert residents by yelling while motorists honked their horns.
Hsu Ming-yuan, a resident who lives near the building, told the Washington Post that he witnessed smoke coming from the first floor of the building and didn’t think it was serious until a few hours later when he witnessed massive flames engulfing the structure.
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Video’s of the fire surfaced on social media shortly after the blaze ignited depicting first responders aggressively tackling the blaze and rescuing residents while family members waited on the streets seeking information concerning their relatives.
The cause of the fire, which burned for more than four hours before being extinguished, is still under investigation.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) said that police have not ruled out the possibility of arson and that four people were taken into custody for questioning but were not yet considered suspects.
“Due to the extremely fierce fire, many floors were severely scorched,” the fire department said, adding that clutter piled up inside of the building impeded rescue operations and provided fuel for the blaze.
Thirty-two people were declared dead on the scene and many others died after being sent to the hospital, local authorities stated.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, wrote in a social media post, “We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and hope that the injured will recover soon.”
The blaze is Taiwan’s deadliest since a fire broke out in a restaurant in the city of Taichung in 1995 that killed 64 people.