Large apartment fire in central Hanoi kills 14 people: state media

Fire and Rescue workers carry a victim to an ambulance following a big fire at an apartment block in Hanoi on May 24. - AFP

HANOI: A fire that ripped through a small apartment block in central Hanoi early Friday (May 24) has killed at least 14 people and injured three others, state media said.

"The fire broke out at around 12:30am local time. The fire was big, with several explosions," Vietnam News Agency said.

Pictures from the scene on Friday morning showed charred belongings in the building's courtyard and the blackened interior of the first floor.

By 6.20am, at least 14 people had died and three were injured, VNA cited local officials as saying.

It was not clear how many people were in the apartment at the time the fire broke out. The flames were extinguished after an hour.

The building is situated down a two-metre-wide alley, with 12 rooms for rent.

The first floor was reportedly used for the selling and fixing of electric bicycles.

A neighbour, who declined to give her name, told AFP she heard an "explosion like firecrackers".

"I thought there was a fight, or something hitting the window. I ran down and saw the fire.

"Many of the neighbours had run out of the alley, crossing through other neighbours' houses. We were so, so scared."

She said the building's landlord had rescued his daughter-in-law and a grandchild from the flames.

Pham Quoc Viet, a rescue worker at the site, told state news site VNExpress that no one was left inside the building

"It was so terribly hot in there," he said.

"Firefighters tried their best to look for survivors. They rescued an old lady and then brought another four people out. We checked carefully, there were no other ones inside."

Authorities are still investigating the fire's cause.

The fire comes after 56 people died in a fire at an apartment block in Hanoi in September last year, in what was Vietnam's deadliest fire in two decades.

At least three children were among the dead.

The country has experienced several other deadly fires in recent years, often at entertainment venues.

A year ago, a karaoke bar blaze near commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City killed 32 people and injured 17. The owner was later arrested on charges related to breaching fire prevention regulations.

In the aftermath, the prime minister ordered an inspection of all high-risk venues.

Fire safety equipment and instructions have been installed in many streets and buildings across the city. - AFP

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