According to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency (CNA), a fire broke out in a 13-story commercial and residential building in Yancheng District, Kaohsiung City, at 2:54 am local time (2:54 pm EST).
A spokesperson for the Kaohsiung Fire Department told CNN that the rescue operation is still in progress and more than 377 rescuers have been deployed to the scene. He said at least 41 people were injured.
Initially, the authorities set the death toll at seven, but the city’s fire chief Li Qingxiu warned that more casualties are expected because some people may still be trapped in the residential area of the building, which is between the seventh and eleventh floors. between.
CNA stated that a total of 139 fire trucks and ambulances were deployed to the scene and extinguished the fire by 7:17 am (7:17 pm Eastern Time). By noon, at least 62 people between the ages of 8 and 83 had been rescued.
According to CNA, there are more than 100 residents, many of whom are physically disabled seniors, living in this building.
According to CNA, it is unclear what caused the fire. According to reports, the local police are reviewing surveillance video and said that human factors cannot be ruled out.
Lee told CNA that the number of casualties was high due to multiple factors: the fire broke out overnight; most residents were elderly; the staircase was full of debris; and the building materials did not meet fire safety standards.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Zhimai apologized at the evening press conference.
He explained that the first six floors of the building were built for commercial use, and the seventh and above are residential buildings.
Although there are no businesses on the first six floors, there are some flammable items there. Chen said that this is one of the main reasons for a large number of casualties.
President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan expressed his “deepest condolences” to the victims of the fire on Facebook.
Tsai Ing-wen promised that her government will “do its best” to rescue the trapped people, resettle the residents affected by the fire, and provide necessary assistance to the families of the victims.
She wrote on Thursday afternoon local time: “In the face of this serious accident, we express our deepest condolences to the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery.”