Prosecutors ask to detain Kaohsiung fire suspect

10/15/2021 11:26 PM
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The 51-year-old Huang (second right) is brought in by the police for question Friday. CNA photo Oct. 17, 2021
The 51-year-old Huang (second right) is brought in by the police for question Friday. CNA photo Oct. 17, 2021

Update: Suspect in deadly Kaohsiung fire detained

Kaohsiung, Oct. 15 (CNA) Kaohsiung prosecutors filed a motion Friday to detain a female suspect on suspicion of negligent homicide and jeopardizing public safety after a fire in a building in the city's Yancheng District claimed 46 lives and injured dozens of others on the previous day.

The 51-year-old woman surnamed Huang (黃) and her 52-year-old boyfriend, identified by his last name Kuo (郭), were questioned by the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office earlier Friday over their suspected involvement in the blaze.

The questioning lasted eight hours, and at 6 p.m., prosecutors filed a request with the Kaohsiung District Court to have Huang detained on suspicion of negligent homicide and endangering public safety.

The court has yet to issue a ruling as of press time.

Kuo, meanwhile, was released on NT$60,000 bail given that his involvement in the case was less serious, prosecutors said.

Evidence gathered by investigators so far points to the starting point of the fire being a small room at the back of a shop selling tea items on the building's ground floor.

On Wednesday evening, Kuo and Huang were drinking alcohol with another man in the small room, but Kuo later left the room, possibly after a quarrel with his girlfriend, followed shortly thereafter by the other man, according to an investigation by prosecutors.

Huang was the last person to leave the room, and the fire started shortly after she left, the investigation showed.

Based on video footage collected from a nearby roadside surveillance camera, Huang left the site at 2:16 a.m. Thursday, prosecutors said, noting that someone had reported the incident to the police after smoke was seen coming out of the room at 2:40 a.m.

During questioning, Huang admitted to have lit sandalwood incense as she believed it could repel mosquitoes, prosecutors said, noting that there were inconsistencies in her statements throughout the interrogation.

One such example involved what she did with the incense before she left the room.

At one point, prosecutors said Huang remarked that she threw the incense in the dustbin, but then changed her tune, saying she could not remember what she did with it.

According to the Kaohsiung prosecutors office, Huang denied setting the fire on purpose.

The fire broke out on the ground floor of the 40-year-old 13-story building in the early hours on Thursday, with most residents living in about 120 units from the seventh to 11th floors.

It is the second deadliest building fire in Taiwan ever after the blaze at Weierkang Club in Taichung that killed 64 people in February 1995.

(By Hung Hsueh-kuang and Ko Lin)

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