TAIPEI - Nine people were killed and 16 injured in a blaze that broke out early Monday (Aug 13) at a hospice for the terminally ill near Taipei, fire officials said.
All 36 people, including three staff, were evacuated after the fire started in the hospice which is located on the seventh floor of a nine-storey hospital in New Taipei city.
The fire broke out at 4.36 am and was put out at 5.37am, after 76 vehicles and 208 firemen were dispatched to the scene.
Sixteen had cardiac arrests and seven were revived.
The other nine died with the cause of death given as smoke inhalation, according to the local fire department.
New Taipei fire department chief Huang Te-ching said the cause of the fire was still being investigated and denied reports that the sprinkler system had malfunctioned.
"The sprinkler device was on but there's some distance between its location and where the fire started so the fire couldn't be immediately put out," he told reporters.
CCTV footage on local media showed staff rushing through the hospice corridors, carrying patients out in their arms or in wheelchairs to evacuate them after the fire broke out.
Local media said 10 of the 16 are in serious condition. Some were rushed to several nearby hospitals.
Local media quoted some patients' relatives saying they heard a blast and suspected that an oxygen tank might have exploded, causing the fire.
Premier William Lai apologised to the public and expressed condolences over the tragedy.
"We will review the cause of the incident to prevent a similar situation from happening again," he said.
The fire was believed to have started in Ward 7A23, where four patients and one migrant worker were staying.
A hospital bed's faulty motor is believed to have caused a short circuit which started the fire, reported local media.