A fire broke out in a residential building in Southern Taiwan’s main port city, Kaohsiung. The 40-year-old building lit up at around 3 a.m. on Thursday, spreading rapidly across the building’s 13 floors. Taiwan’s ‘ghost building’ fire took 46 lives and injured dozens more.
Local fire authorities reported that there were at least 41 victims who received treatment for their injuries.
Locals dubbed the location as the ‘No. 1 ghost building’, seeing as it was once a robust building that became partly abandoned after a fire broke out in 1999. This commercial and residential building was built in the 80s near the Love River in downtown Kaohsiung. It used to be a hotspot for restaurants, a cinema, and several karaoke lounges. However, after the 1999 fire, many of its inhabitants abandoned it.
Taiwan’s Tragedy: 46 Reported Dead, More Injured
The fire department officials received an emergency call at around 2.54 a.m., after which 159 firefighters arrived at the scene. Locals reported that at around 3 in the morning, the fire woke them up.
One Kaohsiung resident, in particular, Lin Chuan-fu, recalled: “It was a sea of flames.”
The nearby residents heard a loud explosion and woke up to find that flames had engulfed the building. According to Lin, some of those living on the higher floors were older residents who “might not have had enough time to get out”.
Surveillance footage from an adjacent building showed an initial flash of light on the first floor. Not long after, the blaze enveloped the whole floor.
The local news reported that the fire was successfully put out at 7.17 a.m. At 10.40 a.m., the fire department rescued a total of 53 people sent them to the hospital. Of these victims, 9 showed no vital signs. After a thorough search of the building, the Kaohsiung fire department reported their confirmation of 46 deaths in total.
The building was home to 120 residential units located between the 7th and 11th floors. According to the Fubei village chief, Lin Chuan-fu, more than 100 residents live in the building. Many of these residents are senior citizens with physical infirmities or dementia.
Reports of the Ghost Building’s State of Disrepair
Authorities believe that the fire started on the building’s first floor. For now, the cause of the fire remains unknown and under investigation, as per the city’s fire chief, Lee Ching-hsiu’s report. Firefighters have, however, seen the blaze going up at an area where there was a huge pile of clutter.
Recently, there have been pictures of the building’s physical state. Safety conditions were subpar at best. Exposed electrical wires, corroded water pipes, and debris blocking shadowy staircases were a frequent sight.
Deputy mayor Lin Chin-yong explained that the authorities inspected this ‘ghost building’ four times between 2019 and now. On Tuesday, they posted an inspection notice. However, a barrier obstructed the firefighters’ access to the higher floors and thus impeded their efforts.
Lin said, “It’s really a shame that such a bad thing happened before the improvements could be completed.”
This tragedy is one of Taiwan’s deadliest fires since 1995. Following this incident, doubts arise pertaining to Taiwan’s building and fire safety records.