9 with no vital signs, 44 others hospitalized in Kaohsiung building fire (update)
(read the updated story here)
(story updated with the latest casualty number and comments by Kaohsiung fire bureau chief)
Kaohsiung, Oct. 14 (CNA) A building fire in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung early Thursday has left at least nine people at the scene without vital signs and another 44 in hospital, according to fire officials, who predicted that casualties could rise further.
The Kaohsiung City Fire Bureau received a report at 2:54 a.m. Thursday of a blaze that had broken out in a 13-story commercial and residential building on Fubei Road in the city's Yancheng District.
A total of 159 firefighters were dispatched to the blaze, and the fire was extinguished at 7:17 a.m.
As of 10:40 a.m., firefighters had rescued 53 people and rushed them to hospital, with nine of those rescued showing no vital signs, according to Fire Bureau chief Lee Ching-hsiu (李清秀).
He predicted that the number of casualties could increase as more may be trapped in the residential part of the building between the seventh and 11th floors.
Firefighters are still combing the 40-year old Cheng Chung Cheng (城中城) building for survivors and are still investigating the cause of the blaze, Lee said.
The fire allegedly broke out on the first floor of the building before it engulfed the entire building, which houses 120 residential units between the seventh and 11th floors, according to fire officials.
Officials said the building's age and stacks of detritus blocking access into many areas had made the rescue more difficult.
Fubei village chief Lin Chuan-fu (林傳富) told reporters that he heard a loud explosion in the middle of the night and woke up to find the building on fire.
He said over 100 residents, many of them senior citizens with dementia or physical disabilities, live in the building.
Lin added that he was worried that many of them had been unable to escape to safety.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who was present at the scene, said the mixed-use building was built around 1981 and the first to sixth floor of the building previously housed several now-abandoned restaurants, karaoke clubs and a movie theater.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has sent Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) to Kaohsiung to help residents resettle and has also sent condolences to the families of the victims, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) told a CNA reporter Thursday.
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