Nine killed, 16 hurt in fire at hospice in Taiwan’s New Taipei City

Palliative care patients had cardiac arrests and succumbed to smoke inhalation, local fire service says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 10:10pm

Nine people were killed and 16 injured in a blaze that broke out early Monday morning at a hospice in Taiwan, fire officials said.

All of the 36 people inside, including three staff, were evacuated after the fire started in the palliative care facility on the seventh floor of the nine-storey Ministry of Health and Welfare Taipei Hospital in New Taipei City.

Sixteen had cardiac arrests and seven were revived. Smoke inhalation was given as the cause of death for the nine people who died, according to the local fire service.

The city’s fire service chief Huang Te-ching said the cause of the fire was being investigated and denied reports that the sprinkler system had malfunctioned.

“The sprinkler device was on but there’s some distance between its location and where the fire started so the fire couldn’t be immediately put out,” he told reporters.

Central News Agency, said citing the fire service, that a foreign carer reported a spark on a bed in the hospice ward at 4:36am on Monday, but by the time emergency crews arrived, the fire had spread throughout the ward.

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The blaze was extinguished at 5:27am, the department said, adding that it was probably caused by a short circuit in the life support system on the hospice ward.

Footage from a surveillance camera broadcast on local media showed staff rushing through the hospice corridors, carrying patients out in their arms or in wheelchairs to evacuate them after the fire broke out.

The injured were rushed to several nearby hospitals.

The 16 people hurt remain in hospital, with 10 of them said to be in a serious condition, the local TVBS news network reported.

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Local media quoted some patients’ relatives as saying they heard a blast and suspected that an oxygen tank might have exploded, causing the fire.

Taiwan’s Premier William Lai apologised to the public and expressed condolences over the tragedy.

“We will review the cause of the incident to prevent a similar situation from happening again,” he said.