Viet­nam in­ves­ti­gates deadly karaoke fire

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Viet­nam has opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a blaze which killed 13 at a karaoke bar and took sev­eral hours to put out, as of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day some vic­tims likely suf­fo­cated in win­dow­less rooms. Most of the dead were gov­ern­ment work­ers en­joy­ing a staff party when the fire broke out Tues­day af­ter­noon in the multi-storey build­ing in Hanoi’s com­mer­cial Cau Giay dis­trict and quickly tore through neigh­bor­ing build­ings.

In­spec­tors picked through rub­ble in the charred build­ing Wed­nes­day, where bro­ken beer bot­tles were scat­tered and sev­eral mo­tor­bikes burnt to a crisp. “Hun­dreds of fire­men and po­lice of­fi­cers were mo­bi­lized to ex­tin­guish the fire,” The Chung, a ward of­fi­cial told AFP, adding that two po­lice of­fi­cers were be­ing treated for in­juries sus­tained while try­ing to put out the blaze. State-run me­dia quoted an of­fi­cial as say­ing 11 of the vic­tims were gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees from a po­lit­i­cal train­ing academy.

“They went out par­ty­ing after fin­ish­ing a test dur­ing a po­lit­i­cal train­ing course,” Hanoi’s party chief Hoang Trung Hai said, ac­cord­ing to Tuoi Tre news­pa­per. He added trapped pa­trons likely suf­fo­cated in­side the win­dow­less karaoke rooms that spanned sev­eral floors. All trainees from the academy have been or­dered to seek ap­proval from the di­rec­tor be­fore join­ing so­cial gath­er­ings dur­ing or after work hours, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment pub­lished in lo­cal me­dia.

Re­ports quoted an of­fi­cial as say­ing the fire was likely sparked by welders work­ing on a sign­post at the bar-which was un­li­censed. The na­tional fire depart­ment has or­dered a coun­try-wide as­sess­ment of fire pre­ven­tion mea­sures at all karaoke bars, clubs and restau­rants, and all karaoke venues in Cau Giay have been closed for in­spec­tion, ac­cord­ing to state me­dia.

‘I was ter­ri­fied’

Lo­cals de­scribed scenes of chaos on Tues­day as fire­fight­ers bat­tled to put out the blaze. “I was car­ry­ing my stuff when I saw the fire sud­denly started,” said Do Thi Kha, 77, a food ven­dor in the area. “The fire spread over to two or three neigh­bor­ing build­ings be­fore I saw fire trucks come in. It was ter­ri­ble. I was ter­ri­fied. They did not have enough wa­ter to ex­tin­guish the fire,” she told AFP. An­other wit­ness said the fire burned for more than five hours and wors­ened when it ig­nited fuel tanks in cars parked nearby.

“Trucks had to keep com­ing back and forth with wa­ter as there was not enough. That was why it took so long to ex­tin­guish,” said 69- year-old Nguyen Dinh Sau. Po­lice opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion after Prime Min­is­ter Nguyen Xuan Phuc said au­thor­i­ties should “se­ri­ously pun­ish” any­one re­spon­si­ble for the dis­as­ter. Karaoke bars are pop­u­lar hang­outs in com­mu­nist Viet­nam, among gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and young peo­ple alike, and Tues­day’s fire was not the first of its kind in the cap­i­tal.

In May 2014 five peo­ple burned to death at a karaoke bar in Hanoi after an elec­tri­cal fault trig­gered a mas­sive blaze. An­other karaoke venue in the city went up in flames in Septem­ber this year, but no ca­su­al­ties were re­ported. Blazes are com­mon at houses, bars and restau­rants in Viet­nam, where fire pre­ven­tion and fire­fight­ing is lim­ited. —AFP

HANOI: This photo taken on Novem­ber 1, 2016 shows fire­fight­ers bat­tling a fire at a karaoke bar. —AFP

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