Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Homese asiaAt least 30 dead in horrific fire at Hanoi apartment block

At least 30 dead in horrific fire at Hanoi apartment block

HANOI – At least 30 people, including children, have died in a massive fire at an apartment block in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, local media reported on Wednesday, citing the city’s police.

The fire broke out just before midnight on Tuesday (1am on Wednesday, Singapore time) on the parking floor of a nine-storey building that is home to about 150 residents, according to the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA). It added that the blaze was contained by 2am on Wednesday.

State-run newspapers Dan Tri and Saigon Giai Phong put the death toll at 30, citing the Hanoi police.

At least three children were among the dead, reported online state newspaper Viettimes.

More than 100 people managed to escape or were pulled from the building by rescuers, with the authorities rushing at least 54 people to hospital, including “dozens” who were dead, VNA said.

Several of the victims had multiple injuries, having jumped from their windows to escape the fire, state media said, citing Dr Vu Hoang Phuong of Hanoi Medical University Hospital.

A woman who lives near the block and gave her name only as Hoa said: “I heard a lot of shouts for help. We could not help them much.”

She added that the apartment was closed off and had “no escape route”, making it “impossible for the victims to get out”.

Television images showed firefighters equipped with hoses and ladders at the scene, while a column of thick, dark smoke billowed from the building. The police said an investigation into what caused the fire was under way.

The blaze was put out by Wednesday morning, but rescuers struggled for hours afterwards to access the building, which is located in a narrow alley in a residential area of south-western Hanoi. The complex’s small balconies were surrounded by iron bars, and the apartment block had only a single exit – and no emergency ladder on the outside.

Another witness, Ms Huong, said a small boy was thrown from a high floor to help him escape the flames.

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“I was about to sleep when I smelled something. I went outside and saw the fire,” she said.

“The smoke was everywhere. There was a little boy thrown from a high floor. I don’t know whether he survived or not, although people used a mattress to catch him,” she added.

‘We were so scared’

Neighbours reported seeing several others jump from the block.

“There was a middle-aged woman (who jumped) down onto my terrace… She hit her arm and broke it. Another person also jumped down… (She) broke her legs,” said Ms Dao To Nga, adding that a child had been “put into a plastic basket and lowered” from the building.

Some were able to flee the building using her roof. “This rooftop of my family (home) helped 14 to 15 people escape,” she said.

One survivor, Ms Nguyen Thi Minh Hong, 34, said that her family had waited in their seventh-storey apartment at the back of the building for five hours before help arrived.

Her family had been sleeping when they suddenly “felt very hot because the power had been cut”, she said. After her husband opened the door, they heard people shouting for help and saw smoke, she added.

Her family – including her two children, aged six and nine – tried to escape to the roof, but were forced back into the apartment owing to the heat of the fire.

“I was so scared. We stayed inside the room for five hours… I just tried to calm my kids down by holding a wet towel to their faces,” she said from Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital.

“We were between life and death.”

Survivors in shock

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who visited the site on Wednesday, ordered an investigation into the fire.

While visiting survivors at Bach Mai Hospital, Mr Chinh was told by clinic director Dao Xuan Co that two patients were in serious condition, and 22 were recovering from minor injuries.

The clinic director told Mr Chinh that many of the patients were in shock, adding that they were also receiving psychological treatment.

Vietnam has experienced several deadly fires in recent years, frequently at entertainment venues.

In 2022, a blaze at a three-storey karaoke bar in commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City killed 32 people.

At least 17 people were injured in that fire. The owner of the bar was arrested on charges related to breaching fire prevention regulations.

In the aftermath, the Prime Minister ordered an inspection of all high-risk venues.

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In 2018, 13 people died after an apartment complex, also in Ho Chin Minh City, caught fire.

In 2016, another 13 people died at a karaoke venue in Hanoi when a fire broke out.

South-east Asia frequently sees deadly fires. Accidental conflagrations are common, a result of lax safety standards. AFP, REUTERS

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