At Least 46 People Die as Fire Breaks Out in Southern Taiwan Residential Tower

At least 46 people died and dozens were injured due to a fire that erupted in a 13-storey building in Kaohsiung, Southern Taiwan, on Thursday.

According to the fire department authorities in Kaohsiung, the "extremely fierce" fire erupted around 3 a.m. and spread across many floors of the building on Fubei Road in the city's Yancheng district. The blaze damaged numerous stories of the structure.

Loud Explosion in the Middle of the Night

The fire broke out on the first floor of the building before it engulfed the entire building, which houses 120 residential units between the 7th and 11th floors, according to local media reports.

At least 11 dead bodies discovered on the scene were immediately taken to the morgue, according to Fire Chief Li Ching-hsiu, who spoke to journalists at the scene of the fire.

Another 14 people who showed no signs of life were among 55 taken to the hospital, reported The Associated Press. The Fire Chief predicted that the number of casualties could increase as more may be trapped in the residential part of the building between the 7th and 11th floors.

The firefighters were performing search and rescue operations with more than 377 rescue workers deployed to the scene, a spokesman at the Kaohsiung city fire bureau told CNN. At least 41 people have suffered injuries, he said.

Nearby residents told local media they heard a loud bang that sounded like an explosion before the fire.

"The power lines may have been outside... these past few days there have been 'boom' sounds from the power [lines]," one resident said, according to Reuters.

Fire at a tower block in Taiwan
At least 46 people have been killed and dozens more seriously injured in a fire at a 13-storey tower block in southern Taiwan Twitter

What's the Cause of the Fire?

Firefighters are uncertain of the cause of the fire. However, they did notice that the flames burned most intensely where a lot of clutter had been piled up.

The building named 'Cheng Chung Cheng' is roughly 40 years old, with stores on the lower levels and flats on the upper levels.

Mayor Chen Chi-mai said the building was partly abandoned, having previously been host to restaurants, karaoke lounges and a cinema, Reuters reported.

The investigation is going on and the fire officials told the public not to allow rubbish to accumulate in or around their residences and to keep staircases unobstructed. Local police said they cannot rule out human factors.