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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

At least 13 killed in Vietnam condominium fire

Most deaths due to suffocation or people jumping from their flats

Sheets used by residents to escape hang from a balcony after a fire at an apartment building in Vietnam's southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City on March 23, 2018. AFP
Sheets used by residents to escape hang from a balcony after a fire at an apartment building in Vietnam's southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City on March 23, 2018. AFP

At least 13 people were killed and 28 injured in a fire at a large condominium complex in southern Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.

Residents startled awake by loud noise and smoke signalled for help with lit mobile phones and crawled on to cranes from their balconies to escape. Police said it was unclear if anyone was missing.

Police rescued more than 100 residents while more than 1,000 escaped the fire themselves, state media quoted the city's police and fire department as saying.

"We were sleeping when the fire alarm went off, we all rushed out to the staircases. It was very hot and dark," condominium resident Le Thi Cam told online newspaper VnExpress.

"We were awakened by loud noise. We ran out of the apartment but there was a lot of smoke. We only had enough time to grab the mobile phone, wet some towels to cover ourselves and ran out," another unnamed resident said.

The three buildings with 14 to 20 floors have more than 700 flats. They were built six years ago in Vietnam's southern commercial hub, formerly called Saigon.

State media said most people died of suffocation or jumping from high floors.

The official Vietnam News Agency said more than 200 firefighters took more than an hour to put the fire under control.

The fire started in the basement garage, with state media saying doors that separated the garage from the upper floors should have been shut, but they were opened, which allowed the smoke to rise to the upper floors.

Major General Phan Anh Minh, the city's deputy police chief, said the fire could have started from a motorbike's electrical system but the possibility of explosions has not been ruled out.

In 2002, a fire at a trade centre in downtown Ho Chi Minh City killed 60 people in one of Vietnam's worst fires.