Four people on Wednesday were killed in a fire at a COVID-19 quarantine hotel in Changhua County, including a firefighter who died after their oxygen tank ran out while sheltering in a bathroom in the burning facility, the Changhua Fire Bureau said yesterday.
The fire broke out at 7:52pm on the second floor of the 15-story Chiaoyu Building, the bureau said, adding that the flames spread rapidly and filled the structure with smoke, trapping 31 people.
The former department store, housing the hotel on the seventh to ninth floors, is considered a local landmark.
Photo: Tang Shih-ming, Taipei Times
The bureau scrambled 166 firefighters and 58 trucks, the bureau said.
Heat, thick smoke, darkness and the facility’s complex interiors made the firefighting operation difficult, the bureau said, adding that it took nine hours to put out the blaze.
The last survivor trapped inside the building was evacuated at 3:50am yesterday, the Changhua County Government said, adding that first responders had quickly established a list of people suspected to be inside the building.
Those were 27 people under mandatory quarantine, two staying at the hotel while monitoring their health, as well as two hotel employees, it added.
Hotel owner Tsai Chin-feng (蔡進峰) said that two floors in the building were vacant and used for storing carpets left behind by a former occupant who ran an entertainment business in the building.
The structure was opened in 1993, initially housing a shopping center and a video arcade, but fire hazards reported over the past few years led to many occupants leaving the site.
Tsai said that he had renovated the seventh to ninth floors to run a hotel with 74 rooms, in the past few months housing people under mandatory quarantine.
When the fire alarm rang on Wednesday night, Tsai ordered staff to check every floor and told guests to stay inside their rooms until firefighters arrived, he said.
Leaving the building to get an overview of the situation, Tsai saw smoke coming from the second floor, he said, adding that he helped some guests leave the building via emergency stairs filled with thick smoke.
The Ministry of the Interior said that an investigation has been opened into the fire, adding that one injured firefighter has been transferred from a local hospital’s intensive care unit to a general ward.
National Fire Agency Deputy Director-General Hsiao Huan-chang (蕭煥章) has traveled to Changhua to learn about the incident and give condolences to the dead firefighter’s family, the ministry said.
Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is Central Epidemic Command Center spokesman, said that people who leave their mandatory quarantine in the case of a fire at a centralized facility would not be fined for doing so.
Additional reporting by Chien Hui-ju
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