Tue, Aug 14, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Nine dead after pre-dawn hospital fire

HOSPICE SECTION:The alarm was raised at 4:36am and the fire was put out about an hour later. An electrical bed might have been the source of the blaze

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Members of the media gather outside the Taipei Hospital in New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang District yesterday, where fire-damaged rooms on the seventh, eighth and ninth floors of the building can be seen.

Photo: Daniel Shih, AFP

Nine people were killed and 30 injured in an early-morning fire yesterday at the Taipei Hospital in New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang District (新莊).

New Taipei City Fire Department Director Huang Te-ching (黃德清) said he received a report of a fire at 4:36am, from room number 7A23 in the hospice section of the nine-story hospital.

Thick smoke was already pouring from the seventh floor of the building when firefighters arrived, he said.

Four patients and a foreign worker were in room 7A23 when the fire broke out, he said.

There were a total of 32 patients, two caregivers, one nurse and eight foreign workers on the floor at the time, he said, adding that the fire was put out at 5:27am.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare, which runs the hospital, said that as of 4pm, a total of 243 firefighters and paramedics had been deployed to the scene and about 300 patients and healthcare workers had been evacuated, including 39 people who were sent to other healthcare facilities for immediate treatment.

As of press time last night, nine people were confirmed dead, nine were in intensive care units and one was in an emergency room observation unit, the ministry said.

Nine patients from the seventh floor had been moved to other facilities, and one had been discharged, it said.

The fire department’s preliminary investigation suggests the fire was caused by a short circuit in an electric bed, but the alarm was not raised for nine minutes, Huang said.

Contributing factors to the casualty toll was that the mattresses were flammable and the door to room 7A23 was not closed during the evacuation, he said.

Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) said the ministry’s preliminary understanding was that a nurse and a caregiver were able to push three of the beds out of room 7A23, but the room was filled with smoke by the time they tried to push the fourth bed out and the bed became stuck in the door.

The patient in the bed had to be physically carried out and the door was left open, Hsueh said.

The ministry has established an emergency response task force to handle the case.

Its main goals are to ensure that the evacuated patients were treated properly, and to cooperate with the fire department to understand what caused the fire and to prevent a similar accident, he said.

He denied that there might have been a shortage of hospital personnel at the time of the fire.

It was unreasonable at this time to criticize hospital personnel for delaying reporting the fire, but if the investigations showed that to be the case, the ministry would boost training for hospital fire emergency responses, he said.

Premier William Lai (賴清德), Hsueh and the hospital’s deputy superintendent, Lin San-chi (林三齊), apologized to patients, their families and the public for the fire.

An order has been issued to upgrade fire prevention measures at hospitals nationwide, Lai said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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