Firefighters, workers killed in inferno

LAST WORDS::The mother of deceased fire captain Lee Han-lin said that he had prepared dinner for her before heading for work, telling her to heat it up as he left home

By Chen Yun, Wei Chin-yun and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer and CNA

Mon, Apr 30, 2018 - Page 1

An inferno ripped through a printed circuit board factory in Taoyuan on Saturday night, killing five firefighters and two Thai workers, and injuring seven firefighters, the Taoyuan Fire Department said yesterday.

Fire Department Chief Hu Ying-ta (胡英達) said the department received a call at 9:26pm about a fire at the Chin-Poon Industrial Co (敬鵬工業) factory.

The department sent 189 firefighters, including 55 volunteers, and 67 fire trucks, as well as ambulances, Hu said.

An initial investigation showed that the fire started on the fifth floor of the third factory building, he said.

Firefighters arriving at the scene at 9:30pm learned that some workers were trapped inside, but their exact location was unknown, the department said, adding that the fire quickly spread on the factory’s first and second floors.

Firefighters led by captains Yu Yao-yang (游曜陽) and Lee Han-lin (李翰霖) entered the factory at 9:35pm, it said.

Su Wen-yuan (蘇文遠), auxiliary captain at Taoyuan’s Shanfeng (山峰) fire department, said department group leader Chen Hung-chuan (陳宏銓) discovered at about 9:55pm that a furnace had split at the back of the factory, burning down the entire back wall, and that the building was about to collapse.

Chen ordered firefighters to exit the factory immediately, Su said, adding that firefighter Yu Yao-yang (游曜陽) had twice responded over the radio that he received the order, but was later trapped and could not escape the blaze.

Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), who was at the scene to coordinate firefighting and relief efforts, said the firefighters died after becoming trapped under heavy machinery.

Some firefighters were also injured by acids or other chemicals stored at the factory, and have been hospitalized.

Lu Tsung-yu (呂宗郁), the first fireman to be rescued yesterday, was found at 00:50am and firefighter Lin Wei-hsi (林尉熙) was found at about 4am, the fire department said, adding that both were hospitalized in serious condition.

The fallen firefighters are: Yu, Lee, Lin Po-ting (林伯庭), Yu Po-yu (游博瑜) and Yu Chia-sheng (余佳昇), the department said.

Information about the identities of the two migrant workers who died had yet to be disclosed, it said.

While the fire had been brought under control, the factory was still smoldering and plumes of smoke were still rising from the building at about 4:30pm, the Taoyuan Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Inspection section chief Chang Shu-hao (張書豪) said.

The factory passed a fire safety inspection on Dec. 21 last year, Hu said.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, and the department said large amounts of various types of chemicals, including highly flammable and explosive materials, were stored at the factory.

Family members of the deceased firefighters visited the factory at 4pm, offering prayers and calling for the departed to “return home.”

The mother of firefighter Lee, who was 44, said he had prepared dinner for her before heading to work on Saturday.

She never thought that “Do not forget to heat up the food” would be his last words to her, she added.

Meanwhile, the environmental protection department yesterday said the inferno did not cause serious air pollution, but the company could face a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$101,228) for causing river pollution.

The chemical materials stored at the factory have leaked into sewage ducts, and water samples taken from under the Jhennan Bridge (鎮南橋) were found to have highly acidic pH yesterday morning, Chang said.

The Laojie Creek (老街溪) flowing through Pingjhen District (平鎮) and Jhongli District(中壢) was already polluted, he said, urging local residents not to use the river’s water.

Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan and Lee Jung-ping