Prosecutors yesterday began an investigation into a deadly fire in Tainan which left five members of one family dead after an early-morning blaze broke out in a two-story building in the city’s Sinying District (新營).
After the blaze was put out by firefighters, who responded to the call at about 1:30am yesterday, police and Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office investigators waded through debris to assess the scene and gather evidence.
According to a preliminary assessment released by police and prosecutors, five bodies were found at the site, which was the Chen (陳) family’s residence and truck delivery business office: 55-year-old patriarch Chen Nan-hung (陳南宏) and his wife, Lin Li-chin (林麗琴), as well as their 18-year-old daughter and two sons, aged 22 and 24.
The bodies were taken for autopsies and DNA samples were collected to confirm their identities, prosecutors said, adding that an official cause of death has not been determined.
One body was found just inside the building’s front entrance, an electric roll-up metal door, while the others were found inside other rooms, authorities said.
Apparently, the five were trapped inside, as the blaze had burned out electrical wiring, preventing them from operating the roll-up door, which remained shut, Tainan Fire Department Chief Lee Ming-feng (李明峰) said, adding that metal bars on the building’s windows also prevented the family from escaping.
Relatives said the fire might have been the result of a short-circuited lamp for the family’s ancestral shrine, which, like many Taiwanese families, the Chens had placed in the living room and kept lit continuously.
Lee advised the public to turn off lamps at night and regularly examine lightbulbs and electrical wiring and outlets for signs of wear and damage.
He also recommended that people who live in residences with electric roll-up metal doors install a manual system that can be used to open the door by hand during power outages and emergency situations.
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