Taiwan building fire kills 46

'Extremely fierce' blaze in a residential block in Kaohsiung started early on Thursday

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A fire in southern Taiwan that engulfed a building overnight has killed 46 people and injured another 41, the government said on Thursday.

The 13-storey building in Kaohsiung caught fire at around 3am, city fire officials said. The blaze was “extremely fierce” and destroyed many floors.

Fire chief Li Ching-hsiu said earlier that at least 11 bodies were sent straight to the morgue. Another 14 people who showed no signs of life were among 55 taken to hospital. In Taiwan, official confirmation of a death can only be made in hospital.

Mr Li said the death toll was expected to rise as firefighters searched the building in the city's Yancheng district.

Video shown on Taiwanese television showed orange flames and smoke billowing out of the lower floors of the building as firefighters sprayed water at it from the street. After daybreak, they could be seen spraying water from elevated platforms into the middle floors of the smouldering building.

The cause of the fire was unclear, but firefighters said the flames burnt most intensely where a lot of clutter had been piled up, the fire department statement said.

Witnesses told Taiwan media that they heard an explosion at around 3am.

The building is about 40 years old with shops on the lower levels and apartments above. The lower floors were completely blackened.

Mayor Chen Chi-mai said the building was partly abandoned, having previously been host to restaurants, karaoke lounges and a cinema.

Updated: October 14, 2021, 9:26 AM