Taiwanese residents voiced anguish and outrage on Friday after 46 people perished in an inferno that tore through a dilapidated housing block, as investigators searched for what sparked the island’s deadliest fire in decades. The blaze is the latest tragedy to highlight concerns over lax safety standards in Taiwan.
The fire broke out early on Thursday, (14 October) in a 13-storey, mixed-use building in the southern city of Kaohsiung, raging through multiple floors before firefighters finally got it under control.
The run-down housing block was in poor condition and many of those killed were low-income elderly people, some of whom had disabilities and dementia. Officials said 41 people were hospitalised.
The gutted complex used to be a vibrant spot but, much like the rest of the district, it had fallen on hard times.
Fire officials said one of the reasons the blaze burned so fiercely was that the bottom five commercial floors were filled with debris and discarded items that generated huge amounts of smoke, which then engulfed the residential apartments above.
The fire started on the ground floor, and multiple residents reported hearing loud bangs before seeing flames and smoke.
The Taipei Times quoted Kaohsiung Public Works Bureau director-general Su Chih-hsun as saying multiple fire-safety issues were identified during inspections in 2019, 2020 and earlier this year. But efforts to fix the issues were hampered by a dysfunctional building management committee, Su said.
President Tsai Ing-wen visited the scene on Saturday.
For more information, go to www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/anguish-and-anger-after-taiwan-building-blaze-kills-46-2246221