Anguish and anger in Taiwan after 46 people died in a burning building
Steph Deschamps / October 15, 2021
The fire broke out at dawn Thursday morning in a 13-story mixed-use building in Kaohsiung City, burning through several floors before firefighters managed to bring it under control four hours later.
According to the authorities, 41 people were hospitalized.
The apartment building was in poor condition and most of the victims were low-income seniors, some of whom were disabled or had dementia.
One of the reasons firefighters attribute the violence of the fire to the fact that the five lower commercial floors were filled with debris and abandoned items that generated the huge amounts of smoke that then engulfed the residential apartments above.
Frequently hit by earthquakes and typhoons, the island of Taiwan has strict building regulations, but safety standards are often not well enforced, especially in older buildings.
The mayor of Kaohsiung said a task force would be set up to study the city's management of this and other aging structures.
Taiwan is one of the Asian tigers whose economy leapt forward in the last century thanks to rapid industrialization. But inequality is entrenched and many older people, in particular, have been left behind.