Ho Chi Minh City high-rise fire kills 13

RISING HEAT::Local media said the inferno might have started in an underground parking garage that connects the buildings in the six-year-old residential complex

AFP, HANOI

Sat, Mar 24, 2018 - Page 6

Thirteen people were killed and several injured early yesterday when a fire broke out at an apartment complex in Vietnam’s southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, authorities said.

The fire in the Carina Plaza high-rise building started at about midnight on the lower floors of the building and soon spread to the upper floors.

An official told reporters that many of the victims died of suffocation as they tried to flee the fire by running to higher floors.

“Thirteen people were pulled out dead and more than a dozen others injured. They died from suffocation,” an official from the neighborhood’s government office told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Authorities had not yet determined the cause of the fire, the official said.

Photographs on social media showed residents being rescued from balconies and plumes of black smoke rising from the tall building.

The fire was extinguished by dawn yesterday, although the area was shrouded in thick smoke for several hours, images published on state-run media showed.

The site was littered with charred motorbikes and other debris yesterday as firefighters cleared the area.

Resident Le Thi Vang told state-run online newspaper VnExpress that she and her family were jolted awake by a loud blast in their second-floor apartment, which quickly filled with smoke.

“We ran out and smoke was everywhere. We did not know where to run, so we had to jump down,” 45-year-old Vang said.

Local media reported that the blaze might have started in the underground parking garage that connected adjacent blocks of the apartment complex.

The large apartment complex, which includes several buildings between 15 and 22 stories high, was built six years ago in a residential neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s largest city.

The complex has a swimming pool, tennis court, kindergartens and shops, its Web site showed.

It was Vietnam’s deadliest fire since 2016, when a blaze in a karaoke bar in Hanoi left 13 people dead, mostly government workers who died in the soundproof chambers.

That fire, believed to have been started by sparks from welders working outside, prompted a country-wide assessment of fire prevention measures at bars and clubs.

Blazes are relatively common in Vietnam, where fire prevention and firefighting services are limited.