According to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency (CNA), the fire started at 2:54 p.m. local time (2:54 p.m. ET) in a 13-story commercial and residential building.
A spokesman for the Kaohsiung City Fire Bureau told CNN that rescue operations are still ongoing, with more than 377 rescuers deployed to the scene. He said at least 41 people were injured.
Initially, officials put the death toll at seven, but city fire chief Lee Ching-hsiu warned that more casualties were expected as some people were still trapped in the residential part of the building between the seventh and eleventh floors. can.
A total of 139 fire trucks and ambulances were deployed to the scene and the fire was brought under control at 7:17 a.m. (7:17 a.m. ET), the CNA said. By noon, at least 62 people, aged 8 to 83, had been rescued.
According to the CNA, more than 100 residents, many of whom are physically challenged senior citizens, live in the building.
According to CNA, it is not clear what caused the fire. According to the report, local police are reviewing surveillance footage and have said they cannot rule out human factors.
Lee told CNA that the casualties were high due to a combination of several factors: the fire started overnight; Most of the residents were elderly; The stairs were full of rubble; And the building materials did not meet fire safety standards.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-Mai apologized at an evening news conference.
He explained that the first six floors of the building were intended for commercial use, the seventh floor and above for housing.
While there was no longer any business on the first six floors, there were many flammable objects. Chen said this was one of the main reasons for the heavy casualties.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her “deepest condolences” to the victims of the fire in a Facebook post.
Tsai promised that her government would make “the most effort” to rescue those trapped, rehabilitate residents affected by the fire, and provide necessary assistance to the families of the victims.
“In the face of this grave accident, we express our deepest condolences to the victims, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery,” he wrote Thursday afternoon local time.