The Taichung District Court late on Thursday approved prosecutors’ request to detain a man after a case of suspected arson caused extensive damage and burned down buildings at a night market earlier that day.
The court approved the detention of the 27-year-old man, surnamed Lin (林), to prevent him from fleeing, prosecutors said, adding that Lin would likely face arson charges, with a minimum sentence of five years in jail if he is found guilty.
Lin started behaving erratically at about 3am on Thursday, witnesses reportedly said.
He allegedly turned the valve of a gas cylinder belonging to a steak eatery in Taichung’s Jhonghua Street Night Market, lit the leaking gas and fled the scene, police said.
Two police officers pursued Lin, with one officer sustaining scratch wounds on the arm when Lin tried to resist arrest, witnesses said.
The fire was brought under control by firefighters and extinguished after four hours, causing heavy damage to 16 buildings.
There were no fatalities due to timely evacuations of nearby residents, while four people sought treatment due to smoke inhalation injuries.
Taichung Fire Department official Chen Le-yi (陳樂憶) said that 36 fire trucks and 113 firefighters were deployed and the blaze was put out shortly before 8am.
Property damage is likely to amount to several million New Taiwan dollars, Chen said.
Lin was quoted by police as saying that he had started the fire because he was in a bad mood, adding that he took amphetamine at home earlier.
While wandering the streets, he felt like someone was trying to kill him, he allegedly told police.
No illegal drugs were found on Lin, but urine samples were taken to determine whether he had consumed any illegal substances, police said.
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