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Vietnam fire: 56 dead and dozens injured in Hanoi apartment blaze – BBC News

By Jonathan Head

Dozens were taken to hospital but rescue teams struggled through the night to reach the fire

At least 56 people are known to have died and dozens were injured in a huge fire in an apartment block in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.

Some 37 people were injured in the fire, police said, adding that 39 victims have been identified.

The fire, which broke out during the night, has been extinguished but rescue operations are continuing.

Authorities in fast-growing Hanoi say many newly-built apartments do not meet fire safety regulations.

The city’s population has quadrupled to 5.25 million in the past 20 years.

Reports say the fire could have started on the block’s parking floor, which was packed with motorbikes

The cause of the fire is being investigated but witnesses said it started in the parking floor of the building, which was packed with motorbikes.

Residents described hearing a loud bang at around 23:00 local time on Tuesday (16:00 GMT), and then seeing black smoke rising through the building.

One family said they had to escape by smashing the metal railings blocking their window, and putting a ladder across to a neighbouring building.

Women wait for information from relatives near the site of the fire

“I heard a lot of shouts for help. We could not help them much,” Hoa, a woman who lives nearby, told the AFP news agency.

“The apartment is so closed with no escape route, impossible for the victims to get out.”

Another witness saw a little boy thrown from a high floor to help him escape the flames, AFP reports.

“The smoke was everywhere. I don’t know whether he survived or not although people used a mattress to catch him,” she said.

Fifteen fire engines were sent to assist but could not get close to the burning apartment block because the alley it was in was too narrow.

Bars on windows in the multi-storey block prevented escape

The blaze highlights the challenges of managing fire safety in the region’s fast-growing and poorly regulated cities.

A year ago, 33 people died in a fire at a karaoke club in southern Vietnam where windows were bricked up, blocking escape.

There have been many similar tragedies in other South East Asian countries like Thailand, where regulations were found afterwards either to be inadequate, or in many cases simply not enforced.

Additional reporting by Simon Fraser in London

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