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Firefighter who died in Pingtung factory fire had planned October honeymoon

09/23/2023 03:12 PM
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Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) Lai Chun-ju (賴俊儒), a firefighter who died in a factory fire in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan Friday evening, had previously planned a honeymoon for October with his new wife, according to his mother, who lamented the death of her son.

Lai's mother, who rushed to the hospital with Lai's father and his British wife soon after they were informed the firefighter was seriously injured in the fire, said she was always proud of her son.

Several of Lai's friends and relatives left messages on the deceased firefighter's Facebook page with one saying: "I wish it was not true."

Another one said: "The mission is done. Rest in Peace." A third called Lai a "dauntless hero."

The cause of the fire and subsequent explosions remains under investigation.

With the fire raging for more than 12 hours after it initially started, the county's fire bureau began to use large excavators, trying to look for unaccounted people early Saturday morning, while family members of the missing people anxiously waited on the fire scene at golf ball manufacturer Launch Technologies Co.'s plant on Jingjian Road.

In addition to three firefighters, three factory workers had been confirmed dead as of Saturday afternoon. About an additional 100 were injured in the fire and rushed to hospitals in Pingtung and neighboring Kaohsiung for treatment.

On Friday night soon after the fire hit the factory, Pingtung County Magistrate Chou Chun-mi (周春米) showed up at the fire scene and offered her apology to the family members of the victims, promising she would try her best to help the families to deal with the funeral affairs.

Lai's father, who used to be a firefighter as well, said it was not anyone's fault but added it was all destined.

The fire still left four missing: one firefighter and three factory workers.

A second deceased firefighter, identified by his surname Chung (鍾), had been married and had one daughter, according to Chung's father.

Chung's father said his son had followed the step of his uncle to become a firefighter as he liked to go on a mission to rescue other people from a disaster.

The father said when he was informed of the deadly fire his son had rushed to rescue, he became uneasy. When he got a phone call from Chung's superior about what happened to his son at around 1 a.m. Saturday, he was heartbroken.

A third dead firefighter could be one surnamed Chen (陳).

Su Yuan-yung (蘇元庸) from the fire department of Keelung, who used to work with Chen in Keelung before, said he suspected the dead was Chen, who was assigned later to Pingtung's fire bureau, based on the information Su had gathered about the dead's 1.9-meter stature.

Su said Chen, who was raised in a single-parent family, was very filial to his mother, and used the first batch of his savings to take his mother to Europe for a tour.

Another firefighter surnamed Shih (施) was still unaccountable. His wife said she did not dare to tell their 6-year-old and 4-year-old children about the sad news about their father.

According to the Pingtung authorities, a foul smell arose from smoldering chemical materials at the factory.

The authorities said firefighters continued to douse the flames with water on the scene in an attempt to reduce temperatures in the factory, which once topped 1,000 degrees Celsius as the factory was full of inflammable materials.

Interior Minister Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) arrived at the scene early Saturday morning and expressed his sorrow over the death of the firefighters and those affected, saying it was not easy to completely distinguish the fire as more explosions hit the factory in an broad area of 20,000 square meters with many combustible objects used for golf ball production.

Fortunately, Lin said the fire has been under control for the time being.

He added he received an instruction from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to work with Deputy Minister of Health Victor Wang (王必勝) to provide necessary assistance to the families of the victims.

(By Tsai Meng-yu, Hung Hsueh-kuang, Li Hui-ting, Christie Chen and Frances Huang)


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