Survivors, neighbors and relatives of victims have expressed their anguish and anger after one of the deadliest fires in Taiwan’s history killed 46 people in the city of Kaohsiung.
The 13-storey building that hit the fire was partially abandoned and was in a state of disrepair, meaning that the people who lived there for cheap rent were largely a mix of the frail, elderly, disabled or impoverished. Were.
An independent commission was set up on Friday to investigate the building’s conditions, as officials try to find out what caused the blaze, which also injured dozens.
Li Mao-sheng, 61, a resident of the area where the fire broke out on Thursday, said his friend Cheng Yong-kang used a wheelchair and had not left the building.
Mr. Lee said he hadn’t seen his friend for some time because the door to the dilapidated building didn’t always open, and residents didn’t have the money to fix it.
“Many of the people who lived inside were not in good health. Many of them were disabled,” Mr. Lee said. He said the main reason why so many vulnerable people had homes was because the rent was cheap.
Search and rescue operations were halted overnight and resumed on Friday morning. At the scene, prosecutor Hong Rui-fen told reporters that she would try to find the cause of the fire as soon as possible before starting the arduous task of getting into the building.
Outside the now-blackened and destroyed façade of the building, a Taoist priest dressed in traditional robes prayed for those who lost their lives in the fire.
One of the survivors, 70-year-old Tsai Hsiu-chin, who had been living in the building for 15 years, said she managed to escape at 3 a.m. after hearing someone shout “fire.”
“I didn’t bring anything. I just cared about saving my life,” she said, Thursday night, as she sat in front of the burned-out building as she tried to process the incident.
The building contained about 120 housing units and had a showdown commercial facilities on the lower floors, including a closed movie theater, restaurant and karaoke bar. The authorities have now temporarily erected supporting scaffolding and wire mesh around it to make it safer for passersby and traffic.
Many residents accused city officials of allowing the dilapidated building to function in such condition over the years and not conducting timely inspections.
“The government should have already demolished the building. They kept saying they were going to demolish it, but in the end they didn’t,” said 70-year-old Lin Chih-ying, who lives in front of the building. Reuters.
The city administration said inspecting officers were not able to enter the building’s premises because its doors were always locked when officers arrived, and officials were unable to coordinate visits with property owners.
The city’s mayor, Chen Chi-mai, announced that he had ordered his deputy to set up an independent team to investigate whether negligence contributed to the fire.
He said that of the 46 dead, 21 are yet to be identified. Identification will be done with the help of fingerprint analysis on 19 of the victims, but for two others they will have to rely on other methods.
According to local broadcaster EBC News, police suspect the fire in the building may have been caused by unextinguished sandalwood incense.. A woman who is suspected of throwing burning incense sticks into some bins where small gas canisters were kept along with another man who threw a cigarette outside the building has been taken for questioning.
Fire extinguishers were installed last month, but only three per floor because residents could not pay more. United Daily News Newspaper reported.
It was the second deadliest fire in Taiwan after a nightclub fire in Taiwan’s third largest city, Taichung, in 1995. About 64 people were killed in that incident.
Additional reporting by agencies
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /