Survivor of deadly Kaohsiung building fire recounts 'lucky' escape

10/14/2021 06:57 PM
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CNA photo Oct. 14, 2021
CNA photo Oct. 14, 2021

Taipei, Oct. 14 (CNA) A resident of a mixed-use building in Kaohsiung recounted on Thursday morning how he reached safety after a fatal fire broke out in the building in the early hours of the morning, killing at least 46 residents.

The blaze in the 40-year-old Cheng Chung Cheng (城中城) building on Fubei Road in the city's Yancheng District was extinguished at 7:17 a.m. on Thursday, about four hours after the Kaohsiung City Fire Bureau received a report at 2:54 a.m.

Outside the building, a resident surnamed Mao (毛) told CNA how he and his neighbors who live on the ninth floor managed to escape.

Mao said shortly after he was awoken at around 3 a.m. by shouts and noise outside, he noticed through the window thick smoke curling up from the lower part of the building.

"I immediately rushed out with my cellphone to take an elevator without a second thought," Mao said, but after he and other neighbors made it to the ground floor they were unable to leave the building from there due to a huge fire blocking the exits.

CNA photo Oct. 14, 2021
CNA photo Oct. 14, 2021

They moved to the basement floor and later managed to find another way out, he said, adding that a minute after they reached safety, there was a power outage throughout the building.

Recalling the experience, Mao said he was "very lucky," adding "I hope other residents get out safely."

According to Mao, the building's residential part between the seventh to 11th floor contains about 100 residential units, more than half of which are currently occupied.

Meanwhile, a woman surnamed Tai (戴), who lives in Tainan for her job, hurried back to Kaohsiung to look for her family, including her parents and two older brothers, the moment she heard about the fire.

Tai told CNA in the afternoon that rescuers had yet to find her parents who live on the eighth floor. She expressed concern about their safety, as both are in their 70s and have mobility issues owing to poor health.

One of Tai's brother, who lives on the 10th floor, was rescued and taken to the hospital with mild smoke inhalation, Tai said. She added that her other brother, who lives with her parents, was at work when the fire broke out.

CNA photo Oct. 14, 2021
CNA photo Oct. 14, 2021

Meanwhile, a woman living across the road said she heard noises that she believed to be explosions at around 3 a.m. She went downstairs to have a look and discovered that the ground floor of the building had been engulfed in flames.

The fire bureau said it suspects that the fire started on the ground floor before spreading to the rest of the building. However, the cause of the fire is still being investigated, the bureau added.

As of Thursday afternoon, the blaze had claimed at least 46 lives and injured 41, Fire Bureau chief Lee Ching-hsiu (李清秀) said after a second rescue operation in the building's residential area between the seventh and 11th floors came to an end.

He added that a team was combing the entire building again, including its long defunct commercial area from the ground floor to the sixth floor.

(By Hung Hsueh-kuang, Tsai Meng-yu and Teng Pei-ju)



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