A fire in a nine-floor apartment building in Vietnam’s capital has left 56 people dead and dozens injured.
The fire broke out at about midnight local time on Wednesday (17:00 GMT on Tuesday) but had been contained by 2am (19:00 GMT on Tuesday), the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
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“56 people have been killed and 37 people injured,” Hanoi police department said in a statement.
The building was home to 150 residents, state media said. Residents were being treated for smoke inhalation and injuries sustained as they tried to escape the building.
State-owned national television channel VTV said four children were among those killed.
Television images showed firefighters equipped with hoses and ladders at the scene by night, while a column of thick, dark smoke billowed from the building during the day.
The AFP news agency said the building’s small balconies were surrounded by iron, with the apartment block having only a single exit – and no emergency ladder on the outside.
“I heard a lot of shouts for help. We could not help them much,” a woman who lived near the block told AFP at the site. “The apartment is so closed with no escape route, impossible for the victims to get out.”
Another witness said a small child was thrown from a high floor to escape the flames.
“I was about to sleep when I smelled something. I went outside and saw the fire,” she said.
“The smoke was everywhere. There was a little boy thrown from a high floor, I don’t know whether he survived or not although people used a mattress to catch him,” she said.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who visited the site Wednesday as well as survivors in hospital, ordered an investigation into the fire.
Vietnam has experienced several deadly fires in recent years, frequently at entertainment venues like popular karaoke bars.
A year ago, a blaze in a three-storey karaoke bar in commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City killed 32 people. As many as 17 people were also injured in that fire, with the owner arrested on charges related to breaching fire prevention regulations.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the prime minister ordered an inspection of all high-risk venues.
Thirteen people died in 2018 after an apartment complex, also in Ho Chin Minh City, caught fire.
Another 13 died in 2016 in a karaoke venue in Hanoi following a fire.