Fire kills 46, injures dozens in southern Taiwan

The death toll from a fire in southern Taiwan that engulfed a building overnight rose to 46 more dead, local officials said Thursday who said at least 41 other people were injured.

The 13-story building caught fire around 3 a.m. Thursday, Kaohsiung City firefighters said. A fire department statement said the blaze was “extremely fierce” and destroyed many floors.

At least 11 bodies were sent directly to the morgue, Fire Chief Li Ching-hsiu told reporters at the scene. Another 14 people who showed no signs of life were among the 55 taken to hospital. In Taiwan, official confirmation of a death can only be made in hospital.

Li said the death toll could exceed 40 as firefighters conducted search and rescue efforts in the afternoon.

A video shown on Taiwanese television showed orange flames and smoke billowing from the lower floors of the building as firefighters sprayed water on them from the street. After dawn, they could be seen spraying water into the middle floors of the still smoking building from raised platforms.

The cause of the blaze was unclear, but firefighters noted that the flames burned most intensely where much of the mess had accumulated, the fire department statement said.

Eyewitnesses told Taiwanese media that they heard an explosion around 3 a.m.

The building is about 40 years old with shops on the lower levels and apartments above. The lower floors were completely blackened.