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Deadly blaze breaks out in Taiwan hospital in highrise building

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Deadly blaze breaks out in Taiwan hospital in highrise building

Taiwan investigators are scrambling to discover the cause of a fire that broke out in a Taiwan hospital early on Monday, killing at least nine people and critically injuring another 15.

The fire broke out at around 5 a.m. local time (2100 UTC) on the 7th floor of the hospital in New Taipei. The ward was being used for hospice care.

All 36 people in the ward, including three staff members, were evacuated after the fire broke out. However, the nine that died reportedly suffered from smoke inhalation, according to local emergency services.

CCTV footage broadcast on local media showed staff rushing through the corridors to evacuate the building. Many doctors were seen carrying patients in their arms or wheeling them out in wheelchairs or hospital beds.

The blaze was brought under control and extinguished within an hour.

Cause of fire investigated

New Taipei fire department chief Huang Te-ching said authorities were still investigating the cause of the fire, and denied reports that the sprinkler systems inside the hospital building had failed.

"The sprinkler device was on, but there's some distance between its location and where the fire started so the fire couldn't be immediately put out," Huang told reporters.

Local media suggested that the fire may have been started by an electrical fault in a moveable bed, while some patients' relatives said they heard the blast and suspected it may have been an exploding oxygen tank.

Taiwan Premier William Lai apologized expressed his condolences over the tragedy and apologized to the public. "We will review the cause of the incident to prevent a similar situation from happening again," he said.

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dm/jm (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)