Vietnam News

Vietnam : 56 people dead after fire at nine-floor apartment building

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About 70 people have been rescued, according to Hanoi authorities, with nearly 40 injured

Vietnamese police have announced that 56 people died from a fire in a nine-floor apartment building in the capital, Hanoi.

The blaze began shortly after 11pm on Tuesday when many of the roughly 150 people living in the building were asleep or getting ready for bed.

Firefighters extinguished the fire in about an hour, while footage from the scene showed intense flames shooting through windows on every floor.

At least 70 people were rescued from the building, with some injured when they jumped on to neighbouring roofs to escape the inferno. Nearly 40 people were injured, police said.

While the cause of the fire is under investigation, images of its aftermath depict dozens of charred motorbikes and bicycles on the ground floor, with apartment interiors incinerated.

Fire safety is a frequent concern in Vietnam’s packed major cities. Officials place Hanoi’s population density at 22,000 people per square kilometre, which would make it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Most homes and small apartment buildings are built directly next to each other and designed in a long, narrow ‘“tube” style. This means many buildings only have windows at their front and back, and these are commonly blocked by security bars.

Pictures from Tuesday night showed residents looking out through security bars while covering their faces with their shirts amid smoke from the fire.

It is also common for buildings to have a rolling garage door at their entrance that cannot be opened if a fire cuts the electricity supply. Additionally, Hanoi’s older neighbourhoods, such as the district where this fire took place, feature warrens of narrow alleys that make it difficult for emergency vehicles to access homes.

While hospitals and officials continue to assess the final death toll, a public security leader, Le Van Tuyen, said the fire caused “very heavy” damage and that the number of people killed or injured was “very large”.

The prime minister, Pham Minh Chinh, visited the burnt building, as well as victims being treated in nearby medical facilities. He announced that the government would cover all treatment costs.

“Such a high-rise building, up to 10 floors, which looks like a mini apartment block, has no escape route. It is unacceptable when [the apartment block which houses] 45 households has no exit,” Chinh said.

The blaze is the deadliest fire in Vietnam since a fire at a karaoke parlour in a province neighbouring Ho Chi Minh City killed 32 people in September 2022. That tragedy led to a nationwide inspection of karaoke facilities and new fire safety regulations.

By Michael Tatarski – The Guardian – September 13, 2023

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