Two foreign students die in roof-top apartment fire

Bodies of two foreign students found dead after a fire in illegal rooftop add-on apartment

Fire at a rooftop apartment (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Two foreign students died in a fourth floor rooftop apartment in Shihlin District after a fire broke out yesterday night.

On August 10, at around 7 p.m., a fire broke out in the apartment on Chengde road.  Upon receiving the report of a blaze, the Shihlin branch of the Taipei Fire Department dispatched 15 vehicles, three ambulances and 58 rescue and paramedic personnel to the scene. They found the bodies of one man and one woman burned beyond recognition at 8.30 pm.

The apartment, located at number 85 Chengde Road Section 4, was described as an unauthorized rooftop add-on with a metal exterior and wooden interior. According to the firefighters, the construction of rooftop apartment could easily catch fire, which would be exacerbated by the corrugated metal walls. They added that when a fire breaks out in such makeshift metal structures, occupants can quickly be consumed by the smoke and flames.

The male tenant is said to be from Tuvalu and was identified as Logo Aliimau Nafatali. According to information from Tuvalu Embassy, he was a senior International Business major at Ming Chuan University and was in Taiwan on a scholarship.

He had been renting the rooftop apartment for about one year together with his girlfriend, who also perished in the fire, but whose nationality and identity has yet to be confirmed.

Police and firefighters are still investigating to verify the identities of both deceased and the cause of the fire.

The blaze is a sad reminder of the dangers posed by Taipei's countless illegal rooftop add-on apartments, which often do not meet building codes or safety standards. 

In 2015, the Taiwanese government estimated that there were 600,000 units of illegal rooftop dwellings but the real number could be much higher. Taipei city workers have been trying to demolish illegal construction for years.