Smoky condo fire in Vietnam kills at least 13, injures 28

2018-03-23 12:36
Firefighters extinguish a fire in a condominium complex in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (VnExpress via AP)

Firefighters extinguish a fire in a condominium complex in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (VnExpress via AP)

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Residents startled awake by loud noise and smoke signalled for help with lit mobile phones and crawled onto cranes from their balconies to escape a fire on Friday at a large condominium complex in southern Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City. At least 13 people were killed and 28 injured, with police saying it was unclear if anyone was missing.

State media quoted the city's police and fire department as saying police rescued more than 100 residents while more than 1 000 escaped the fire themselves.

"We were sleeping when the fire alarm went off, we all rushed out to the staircases. It was very hot and dark," online newspaper VnExpress quoted condominium resident Le Thi Cam as saying.

"We were awakened by loud noise. We ran out of the apartment but there was a lot of smoke. We only had enough time to grab the mobile phone, wet some towels to cover ourselves and ran out," the newspaper quoted an unnamed male resident as saying.

The three buildings with 14 to 20 floors have more than 700 apartments. They were built six years ago in Vietnam's southern commercial hub, formerly called Saigon.

State media said most people died of suffocation or jumping from high floors.

The official Vietnam News Agency said more than 200 firefighters worked more than an hour to put the fire under control.

The fire started in the basement garage, with state media saying doors that separated the garage from the upper floors should have been shut, but they were opened, which allowed the smoke to rise to the upper floors.

Maj. Gen. Phan Anh Minh, the city's deputy police chief, told state media that the fire could have started from a motorbike's electrical system but the possibility of explosions has not been ruled out.

In 2002, a fire at a trade center in downtown Ho Chi Minh City killed 60 people in one of Vietnam's worst fires.

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