Nine people were killed and 30 injured in a blaze that broke out early Monday at a hospice for the terminally ill near Taiwan’s capital Taipei, fire officials said.
All of the 44 people inside, including 33 patients, were evacuated after the fire started at the hospice on the seventh floor of a nine-storey government hospital in New Taipei city.
Sixteen patients 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 official Hung Liang-chien told reporters an initial probe showed that the fire was likely caused by the short circuit of an electrical device.
“We are clarifying whether it’s the power cable of the hospital’s electric bed or an air cushion bed brought in by relatives” of a patient, he said.
One caregiver working in the hospice reported seeing a spark on the bed where the fire started, according to local media.
Local fire chief Huang Te-ching earlier denied reports 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.
He added that authorities were also examining why there was a nine minute delay by the hospital in reporting the fire.
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.
The injured were rushed to several nearby hospitals, with 11 listed as in serious condition.
Premier William Lai apologised to the public and gave his condolences over the tragedy.
“We will review the cause of the incident to prevent a similar situation from happening again,” he said.
There have been nine hospital fires in Taiwan in the past decade claiming 37 lives.
The worst was in 2012 when a cancer patient set a fire in a nursing facility in southern Tainan city that killed 13 people and injured 60 others. The arsonist was sentenced to death.