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Indonesian worker, Taiwan police officer among those killed in blaze

2017/11/23 22:08:09

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) An Indonesian migrant worker and a Taiwanese police officer whom friends described as a "devoted son" were among those killed in an apartment fire in New Taipei City on Wednesday night that left a total of nine people dead and two injured, authorities said Thursday.

The 24-year-old female Indonesian worker, who was identified only as Nurmah, was found dead on the fourth floor of the apartment building in the city's Zhonghe District, according to the New Taipei City Fire Department.

She was rushed to the nearby Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival, the department said.

Also killed in the fire were five Taiwanese nationals, including 59-year-old Ko Yung-tang (柯永堂), 61-yead-old Chang Ming-hua (張明華), 34-year-old Liu Shu-hua (劉淑華), 42-year-old Wang Chih-wei (王志偉), and 34-year-old Huang Hsin-chieh (黃新傑).

The authorities are still trying to confirm the nationality and identity of the remaining three dead victims. One is a man in his 50s, while the two others were burned beyond recognition, according to the fire department.

The two injured victims were a 33-year-old Myanmarese worker, who was only identified by his Chinese name Tuan Chi-min (段繼敏), and 54-year-old Taiwanese man Huang Ping-ting (黃炳丁).

Tuan and Huang left the hospital on Wednesday night after being treated for mild smoke inhalation, chest pain and dizziness, according to the fire department.

A 49-year-old man surnamed Li (李) was arrested early Thursday for allegedly setting the fire after an argument with a resident on the fourth floor.

According to the fire department, the blaze broke out at about 8:37 p.m. Wednesday in the four-story building, which had an illegally-added fifth story.

Both floors were partitioned into many rooms, which were mostly rented out.

Among the dead, 42-year-old Wang Chih-wei was a police officer at the Wuxing Street Police Station in Taipei.

Lin Hui-shan (林惠山), head of the police station, told CNA Thursday that after learning about the fire a day earlier, Wang's colleagues immediately tried to find him when they realized the the fire's location was close to his rental place.

Unfortunately, he did not survive the fire, Lin said.

Wang, who served as a police officer for 22 years, had a calm personality and was much liked by his colleagues, his supervisor said, adding that everyone at the office was sad and shocked by his sudden death.

A friend of Wang's, surnamed Sung (宋), told reporters that Wang was a thrifty person and had lived in the small and cheap apartment for several years.

He sends most of his monthly salary - around NT$20,000 (US$667) to NT$30,000 - to his parents each month and keeps only a few thousand NT dollars for himself, Sung said.

"He was a devoted son," Sung said.

Sun Chang Hsiu-chang (孫張秀嫦), head of Xinmiao village in Miaoli City who knew Wang since he was a child, said Wang was the oldest of three children and often came back to Miaoli to visit his parents.

She said she rushed to Wang's family after hearing about the news Thursday morning and was devastated when they confirmed he had died.

The owner of the rental units was also questioned and being investigated for possible law violations.

(By Lin Chang-shun, Lu Kang-chun, Huang Li-yun and Christie Chen)