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Suspected arsonist arrested following fatal fire in New Taipei

2017/11/23 10:53:06

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) A man suspected of arson was arrested early Thursday in the wake of a fire at an apartment building in New Taipei's Zhonghe District that left nine people dead and two injured, police said.

Police said they tracked down the suspect, identified as a 49-year-old man surnamed Li (李), based on surveillance camera footage obtained from the neighborhood and information provided by neighbors.

An initial investigation revealed that Li recently had an argument with a resident on the fourth floor of the building and allegedly set the fire shortly thereafter, police said.

Having prepared a bottle of gasoline several days earlier and hidden it in the building's stairway, Li on Wednesday night poured the gas over lumber piled in the stairway and ignited the fire with a lighter, according to police.

The blaze then spread from the stairway on the fourth floor to rooms on the fourth and fifth floors, they said.

According to New Taipei's fire department, the blaze broke out at about 8:37 p.m. Wednesday night in the four-story building with an illegally-added fifth story, where rooms were mostly rented out.

There were five rooms on the third floor, 12 rooms on the fourth floor and 13 rooms on the fifth floor, the department said.

After the fire was extinguished about one hour later, firefighters found two charred bodies and rushed seven other critically wounded residents to hospital where they were later proclaimed dead.

Of the nine people who died, four have been identified as Taiwanese and two as foreign nationals, with the identities of the three remaining victims unclear, the fire department said.

(By Lin Chang-shun and Y.F. Low)
Enditem/AW