Police preliminarily rule out arson in Sun Moon Lake fire

Police preliminarily rule out arson in Sun Moon Lake fire
PHOTO: Berita Harian

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Buildings at Ita Shao shopping district near Sun Moon Lake, Nantou County caught fire yesterday morning, resulting in injuries to four or five people and damage to several buildings.

The fire occurred on Zhongzhen Road in Yuchi Township, near Ita Shao Dock shopping district, according to the Nantou County Fire Department. Officials have preliminarily ruled out arson.

Police of the Chichi Branch of Nantou County Police Bureau stated that in the 10 minutes before the fire, only three vehicles passed through the road through the area, and only nine vehicles were seen driving by in the 10 minutes after the fire, according to footage caught by CCTV on the roadside and at nearby stores.

Locals who fled their houses upon hearing the fire alarms claimed that they heard a "large number of vehicles passing by," and estimated that around 20 vehicles passed by before the fire. A fire broke out in a resident's house shortly after the vehicles left and fire alarms then sounded.

The damaged buildings included hostels, hotels, a yacht company, a tea house, a winery and private dwellings. A man surnamed Wu leapt from his fourth-floor residence and sustained cuts, and first-degree burns to 10 per cent of his body. He is currently undergoing treatment at Tungs' Taichung MetroHarbor Hospital and was not in critical condition as of press time. The other victims sustained injuries from smoke inhalation.

Police suggested that the fire originated from a carbonized motorcycle engine parked under a street lamp near the yacht company, which was owned by Wu. Wu pooh-poohed suggestions that it might have been a revenge attack, saying that he had no enemies.

Initial investigations also led police to believe the fire had been caused by a spark from a street lamp that short-circuited.

Investigations will be carried out to identify the reasons for the fire. Chichi police have not yet ruled out the fires being caused by humans or the short-circuited street lamp and say they will carry out interviews with witnesses.

Nantou County Fire Department received notice of the fire at 3:36 a.m., and deployed 18 vehicles and 32 firefighters and civilian servicemen, along with a dozen volunteer firefighters to combat the blaze, according to local media sources. The fire was put out around 7 a.m. The total value of property destroyed has been estimated at at least NT$50 million (S$2 million).

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