Building owner arrested as death toll from Vietnam apartment fire soars to 56

Fire sweeps through building housing some 150 people

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 14 September 2023 09:53 BST

Related: US and Vietnam elevate diplomatic ties as President Biden visits Hanoi

Vietnam police have arrested the owner of a building in capital Hanoi where a late-night fire killed 56 people and injured at least 37, authorities said.

A massive blaze ripped through a 10-storey apartment tower housing at least 150 people in Khuong Ha Street in Thanh Xuan district of Hanoi.

The owner of the building, Nghiem Quang Minh, 44, was arrested on charges of violating fire prevention laws, according to a government report on Wednesday night.

Authorities ordered nationwide checks on all small apartment buildings after the tragedy.

The city has requested district authorities "to inspect fire prevention systems of mini apartment blocks and highly populated rent places".

"Violations must be seriously punished," the ministry of public security said in an online statement.

The fire broke out at 11.30pm on Tuesday as people were sleeping or preparing to sleep in the building that sits in a narrow alley. The location of the building impeded fire fighting operations, with rescuers forced to park their fire trucks about 400 meters away.

People pray in front of a makeshift shrine set up in front of a building that was caught on fire in Hanoi

The fire was contained on Wednesday early morning. Among those killed, four were children.

Around 70 people were rescued from the building with more than 54 people receiving treatment in different hospitals of Hanoi.

Authorities are probing the cause of the fire, which began in the parking lot of the building which had no emergency exit.

The building was a "tube house," which is a narrow and multi-story apartment tower, housing both families and students. Photographs of the building show its walls darkened by soot, while the heat had caused wires in the vicinity to become twisted and damaged.

Vietnam’s prime minister Pham Minh Chinh visited the site and ordered the Ministry of Public Security and Hanoi People’s Committee to investigate the cause of the fire.

The back of an apartment block after a fire erupted in Hanoi, Vietnam

"We must take this as a lesson" to improve fire prevention and firefighting, he said, adding that "regulations must be taken seriously so we can avoid a tragedy like this."

Last year, at least 32 people were killed in a three-storey karaoke bar near Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam due to an electrical short circuit.

It was the deadliest fire incident in the country in almost a decade.

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