At least 46 people were killed and 41 injured after a fire broke out early yesterday in a mixed commercial and residential building in the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung, officials said.
eighbourhood residents said the 13-storey building was home to many poor, elderly and disabled people and it was not clear how many of the 120 units were occupied.
Witnesses said they heard “something like an explosion” at about 3am when the blaze erupted in the building’s lower floors, which housed a closed cinema, abandoned restaurants and karaoke clubs.
Lin Chie-ying said she was awoken in her home across the street by the sounds of ambulances and fire trucks.
“I thought our home would burn up too,” she said.
The decades-old apartment building is one of many in Yancheng, an older part of Kaohsiung, a southwestern city of 2.8 million people.
“For the families and Yancheng, I feel incomparable pain and I blame myself deeply,” Mayor Chen Chi Mai said at a news conference, bowing in apology. “Here I want to express my deepest sorrow to all the wounded and those who died, as well as their families and all the residents.”
It took firefighters until after 7am to extinguish the blaze. Many of the upper floors appeared not to have been damaged directly.
Throughout yesterday, first responders searched the wreckage and recovered dozens of bodies. Fourteen of 55 people taken initially to hospital were confirmed dead on arrival or shortly after.
Reports said investigators were focusing on a first-floor tea shop where the fire had started, and police were looking into a resident who reportedly fought with his girlfriend earlier on Wednesday.