Hanoi, Vietnam — Ten children were among 56 people killed in a fire at a Hanoi skyscraper, police said Thursday, from which some residents desperately tried to escape by jumping from upper floors, according to witnesses.
Authorities have still not revealed the cause of the fire, which broke out shortly before midnight on Tuesday and was not put out until Wednesday morning in a nine-story building in the Vietnamese capital.
With the fire extinguished, only incense burned Thursday morning outside the building, in a makeshift shrine set up by friends and relatives to honor the dead.
Witnesses told The Associated Press that it appeared an electrical panel caught fire on the ground floor, which was also used to park about 80 motorcycles and bicycles, sending thick smoke into the building.
Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen told the AP that his five family members were sleeping on the first floor when they heard someone shouting “fire.”
By then, the smoke was already so dense that they could barely make out the flames coming from the ground below them.
She fled with her 4-year-old son, her husband and her father-in-law, but her mother-in-law was unable to reach the staircase in time before it filled with smoke.
Huyen says her husband went back inside, then he and his mother-in-law were able to climb down a ladder that a neighbor had propped up on their balcony.
“We lost everything, but it doesn’t matter because the whole family escaped the fire,” she said.
“We survived the tragedy, but it breaks my heart that many of my neighbors couldn’t come. »
As the fire spread, residents on the upper floors became increasingly desperate, and Pham Thu Hang, a pharmacist who lives across the street, said many began to jump.
“We put out mattresses and blankets as cushions for people to jump on, but many were panicked and jumped anyway,” she said. “Some landed on the neighbors’ hard roofs. I could hear the thuds. Jumping would give a better chance of survival than being trapped inside.
Hanoi police said in a statement Thursday that entire families were killed in the fire and that so far they have only been able to identify 39 of the 56 victims.
Another 37 people were injured, about half of whom were taken to Bach Mai Hospital.
Hospital director Dao Xuan Co said some of them required immediate operations due to head and spine injuries. Many also suffered broken bones and doctors were also checking for internal injuries.
“The victims panicked and jumped from the tall building. In addition to inhaling smoke, they also suffered multiple injuries,” he said.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and his cabinet observed a minute of silence on Thursday at the start of a meeting to honor the victims.