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Vietnam boarding house fire kills 14 people

Firefighters respond to a structure fire along Riverdale Boulevard as the fire line creeps up on Highway 9 during the CZU Lightning complex fire on Sunday, August 23, 2020 in Boulder Creek, California. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
May 25, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

A fire in a boarding house in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi early on Friday killed 14 people, state media reported, just eight months after authorities promised tougher rules to stop such deadly blazes.

The fire broke out on the first floor of the three-story building shortly after midnight, according to the Voice of Vietnam.

There were 24 people inside, seven members of the owner’s family and 17 people renting rooms.

Firefighters struggled to reach the building, which was down a narrow alley, police said. Residents of the neighborhood tried to douse the flames with fire extinguishers.

“At that time, there were no cries for help coming from inside the burning house,” Vo Thi Hoai An, who rents a room nearby, told the VNExpress news site.

Fourteen people were found dead at the scene and three people were taken to hospital, while rescue teams searched the building for victims. The injured are said to be in a stable condition.

Hanoi is home to about 2,000 mini-apartments and crowded streets block access to fire trucks.

Last September, 56 people died in a mini apartment building after which the government ordered an investigation and promised tougher regulations for small apartment buildings.

Following Friday’s blaze, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha, Deputy Minister of Public Security Senior Lieut. Gen. Tran Quoc To visited the scene, according to Vietnamese media reports.

They said the Hanoi government offered VND50 million (US$1,960) to the families of the dead and VND30 million for each person injured in the fire.

One Hanoi resident, who didn’t want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Radio Free Asia that such fires were  known as “pre-warned” ones because so many apartments are at risk.

U.S.-based lawyer Le Quoc Quan, who lived near the site of Friday’s fire before moving to America, told RFA  the law in Vietnam was not strict and developed more slowly than it needed to.

“The mini apartments type is still not clearly regulated by law. People  discussed it a lot after the fire  killed 56 people last year but until now there’s been no progress,” he said.

“Due to rampant construction, lack of planning, and corruption, violations are legalized, making fire prevention and fighting even more difficult.

“It’s heartbreaking and I predict this problem will hardly improve in the near future.”