46 dead as Kaohsiung fire rages overnight

Top News | AP, AFP 15 Oct 2021

A building fire that raged out of control for hours overnight in a major city in southern Taiwan left 46 people dead and at least 41 others injured.

Flames and smoke billowed from the lower floors of the 13-story building as firefighters tried to douse the blaze from the street and aerial platforms in the city of Kaohsiung.

A fire department statement described the fire, which started about 3am, as extremely fierce and said several floors had been destroyed.

The death toll rose steadily during the day as rescue workers searched the combined commercial and residential building.

By late afternoon, authorities said 32 bodies had been sent to the morgue, while a further 14 people who showed no signs of life were among 55 taken to hospital.

After daybreak, firefighters could be seen spraying water into the middle floors of the smoldering building.

One woman said on television that her parents were still inside.

The building's age and piles of debris blocking access to many areas complicated search and rescue efforts, officials said.

Many of the residents of the 40-year-old building were elderly and lived alone in small apartments. The building had 120 residential units on the upper floors, as well as a closed movie theater, abandoned restaurants and karaoke clubs below them.

Reports said investigators were focusing on a first-floor tea shop whose owner reportedly fought with his girlfriend earlier on Wednesday. They had not ruled out arson.

The fire looks set to be Taiwan's deadliest in years. The last fire of a similar magnitude was in 1995, when 64 people perished inside a packed karaoke club.

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