TAIPEI: A fire tore through a mixed-use building in Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung on Thursday (Oct 14), killing 46 people and injuring another 41, said officials.
The fire broke out in the 13-storey building in Yancheng district in the early hours of the morning and was extinguished around dawn.
Pictures published by Taiwan's official Central News Agency showed smoke billowing out of the building's windows as firefighters tried to douse the flames using extendable hoses.
The city's fire department said it sent more than 70 trucks to tackle the blaze, which took four hours to put out.
The Kaohsiung fire department said in a statement that after completing a search of the building, they were able to confirm 46 deaths.
Most of the deaths were on floors seven to 11 which housed residential apartments, fire officials said. The first five floors were for commercial use but were unoccupied.
"I heard many loud bangs - 'bang, bang, bang' - on the ground floor and came down to investigate," an unidentified man who lived in the building told Formosa TV.
"That's when I realised there was a fire and called the police," he added.
An unnamed female survivor, describing the scene on her floor, said: "When I opened the door to get out, the hallway was full of black smoke."
A constable at the Kaohsiung police department told AFP that the building was 40 years old and mostly occupied by low-income residents.
Survivors had estimated about 100 people lived in the apartment, the constable added, giving only his surname Liu.
Officials had not yet ruled out arson, he added. Forensics teams were on site and further searches of the building were planned before sunset.
The fire looks set to be Taiwan's deadliest in years. The last fire of a similar magnitude was in 1995, when 64 people perished inside a packed karaoke club.