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Night club fire kills 9 in central Taiwan (update 2)

2011/03/06 18:57:06

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) A fire performance that went awry at anight club in central Taiwan caused a blaze that killed nine peoplein the early hours of Sunday morning, one of the deadliest in recentyears in Taiwan.

A dancer at the "ALA" bar in Taichung City set fire to theceiling with his torch during the performance, triggering the blaze,according to an initial police investigation.

A survivor surnamed Chen said that when the ceiling caught fire,it caused a fireball that the audience initially thought was part ofthe show.

The bar was engulfed in less than three minutes, he said, addingthat he had been sitting on the second floor near a narrow staircasebefore rushing downstairs soon after the fire broke out. Many otherssitting on the second floor close to the stage failed to escape, hesaid.

The nine victims were all found on the second floor. All of themhad been overcome by fumes and had asphyxiated, the police said.

More than 70 people had been packed into the small bar, whichoccupied a floor area of just 30 pings (99.17 square meters).

Eleven of the 12 injured were not seriously hurt and weredischarged from hospital after treatment, while one remained inhospital, where her condition was described as non-life threatening.

The 28-year-old male dancer, the owner of the bar and baremployees were being quizzed by police.

The club has passed 21 safety inspections in the past five years,the most recent of which was carried out last month, according to thedepartment.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu said that the city government "must findan answer" as to why the tragedy occurred even though the bar hadpassed the safety inspections.

The Taichung City government bans fire shows at local restaurantsand hotels but not bars, and now plans to apply the ban to othervenues, including bars, Taichung Deputy Mayor Hsiao Chia-chi said.

Government watchdog officials said they will launch aninvestigation to determine if the government has failed in itsresponsibilities.

(By Lee Hsi-chang, Chen Chin-ping, Hao Hsueh-chin and Alex Jiang)