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4 women die trying to save 4 children in northern Taiwan fire

Firefighters said odds of surviving fire in corrugated steel structure 'almost zero'

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4 women die trying to save 4 children in northern Taiwan fire

(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Four women who died in a massive blaze at a tire shop in Hsinchu City on Wednesday night (June 15) were trying to save four children who also died.

After an argument with family members over their refusal to provide him with another loan, Chen Yen-hsiang (陳彥翔), the 31-year-old son of the owner of Zhengyi tire repair shop poured gasoline on the first floor and set it alight, reported ETtoday. Chen's father witnessed his son pouring gasoline on the fire but when he went up to the second floor, the flames were so intense that he could not save his family members and he had to flee for his life.

At 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the Hsinchu City Fire Bureau received a report of a fire at the intersection of Dongda and Zhongyang roads and immediately dispatched 25 vehicles and 160 firefighters, police, and volunteer firefighters. Firefighters were not able to bring the fire under control until 11 p.m.

When the fire was extinguished, firefighters found the bodies of eight people, four women and four children. The children were aged 1, 4, 7, and 10.

The fire department said the four adults who died were the owner's wife, the arson suspect's wife, his sister-in-law, and his sister, reported Liberty Times. After an initial investigation, the fire department said the four women had rushed to the second floor, where the children had bedrooms.

However, because the structure was made from corrugated steel and lacked insulation, firewalls, or any other fire prevention measures, the victims quickly suffered smoke inhalation and fatal burns.

The women managed to make their way to a room at the front of the building where the children had clustered, but all eight became trapped inside. At some point, the floor beneath the room gave way and all eight fell to the ground below, where their bodies were found by firefighters around midnight after the fire had been extinguished.

The fire department said the dual-purpose garage and house had no fire safety measures and the structure was inherently vulnerable to fire. The thin corrugated steel walls served as no barrier to the flames and smoke and the chance of escape for those still inside was "almost zero."

It then reminded the public that corrugated steel buildings such as this should include a second exit, windows, and other means of evacuation should be installed in order to minimize the risk of death and injury to occupants.

Police officers recovered gasoline canisters from the scene and prosecutors are now investigating Chen for arson. Due to burns and smoke inhalation injuries, Chen is intubated, unable to speak, and has not revealed his motive for the crime.

4 women die trying to save 4 children in northern Taiwan fire
Upper floor can be seen to have caved in after firefighters brought the fire under control. (CNA photo)