At least 46 people died and dozens were injured after a major fire broke out in a building – 13-story commercial and residential – in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, overnight on Thursday. The blaze was “extremely fierce” and destroyed many floors of the building. Most of the residents are elderly. Video shown on Taiwanese television showed orange flames and smoke billowing out of the lower floors of the building . The blaze broke out on the first floor. Flames burned most intensely where a lot of clutter was piled up. It was basically put out at around 7 a.m.. Rescue operations are still underway, with more than 370 rescue workers deployed to the scene. The city’s fire chief Lee Ching-hsiu warned more casualties were expected as some people may still be trapped in the residential part of the building, between the seventh and eleventh floors.
It is unclear what caused the fire but eyewitnesses told Taiwan media that they heard an explosion around 3 a.m.. Arson has not been ruled out as the cause for the fire, and four people are currently being held by the police for questioning. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her “deepest condolences” to the victims of the fire in a Facebook post. The Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits on Thursday sent condolences. The building is about 40 years old. It had been partly abandoned, having previously been host to restaurants, karaoke lounges, and a cinema.