Sun, May 07, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Arson possible in Ilan hopital blaze that killed eight

NIGHTTIME TERROR Most of the hospital's residents were old people, many of them too sick to move without help. Records show the hospital did not meet fire codes

STAFF WRITER

Policemen investigate the casue of a fire at the Jen Ai Hospital in Ilan, yesterday. Eight people were killed and 18 others injured.

PHOTO: AFP

An early morning fire killed eight and injured 18 people at the second site of the Jen Ai Hospital (仁愛醫院) for seriously ill senior citizens on Homu Road (和睦路) in Ilan yesterday.

Many of the the patients at the hospital were unable to move without help. Others fled the burning building in complete darkness.

As of press time investigators have not ruled out arson as a cause of the fire.

The fire broke out on the first floor of the four-story building at around 2:15am, where 26 patients, most of them seriously ill and unable to move by themselves, and 12 care-givers were asleep on the fourth floor.

Chen Chiu-fen (陳秋芬), a care-giver, was the first person to discover the fire. Chen said she walked out of the Ward No. 5097 on the fourth floor at 2:15am and found smoke coming up from the first floor. She then ran down to the first floor and dialed 119.

Only two nurses and one doctor were on duty at the hospital when the fire broke out. One nurse surnamed Lin said she was inspecting the wards on the fourth floor at the time. She first saw flames coming out of a room on the first floor.

Lin and another nurse, surnamed Wei, helped three patients who were able to walk on their own to get out of the hospital first. They tried to rescue other patients on the fourth floor but were deterred by heavy smoke and flames.

One-hundred and twenty firemen arrived in 15 fire trucks at the hospital not long after receiving the fire report and extinguished the fire at 4:30am.

An unidentified witness said he heard the noise of a quarrel before the fire took place, but the nurses denied the allegation.

The firemen, however, found scorched electric wire on a chair in the injection room which was the most seriously damaged.

Eight people choked to death and another 18 suffered from smoke inhalation.

Vice Director-General of the Department of Health (衛生署) Yang Chih-liang (楊志良) yesterday ordered an immediate investigation into the case, adding that the hospital will be forced to close if it is found guilty of negligence.

Yang said it was the most serious hospital fire in the country in the past 10 years.

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