At least 46 people were killed and dozens more were injured on Thursday after a fire that ripped through a multi-purpose building in southern Taiwan.
The blaze broke out early Thursday at a 13-storey, 40-year-old building in Kaohsiung City.
In a statement, the city’s fire department confirmed the deaths of 46 people found in the building and that another 41 were injured.
The building’s upper floors contained about 120 households while the lower ones were unoccupied.
The fire department said the blaze was put out after more than four hours, with about 145 firefighters and 72 fire trucks dispatched to the scene.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has instructed the authorities to help relocate the affected families and to comprehensively investigate the cause of the fire.
Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Facebook that he had visited some of those injured in Kaohsiung hospitals and expressed his condolences to the victims’ family members.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai bowed and apologized to the victims, the affected families and the public as a whole for the deadly accident at a news conference late on Thursday.
Chen said that the city government would do its best to help those injured and the families affected. He vowed to find out what had caused the fire as soon as possible.
In a statement, Li Ching-hsiu, head of the city’s fire deparment, said that the fire had broken out on the ground floor. He said more investigators would join the team to establish further details.
TV images showed the lower part of the building was blackened by the flames.
Local media reported that footage from a nearby closed-circuit television camera showed the fire started on the ground floor and that people living nearby had heard the sound of an explosion.
City officials said that the building’s poor condition – including large piles of unwanted items blocking groundfloor exits – raised questions about its maintenance and upkeep.
The building, whose residents included economically disadvantaged families and older people with mobility difficulties, reportedly lacked a management team.
Chao Tien-lin, a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, called for a revision of regulations to ensure people living in older buildings are safe, in comments to journalists at the scene.
Taiwan’s last deadly fire in a single building occurred in 1995, when 64 people lost their lives in a restaurant in central Taiwan.