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Hanoi Karaoke Blaze Burns Down 4 Buildings, Kills 13

On Tuesday, a cataclysmic fire broke out in one of Hanoi’s busiest entertainment quarters, claiming 13 lives and reducing four tube houses to burnt rubble.

According to Tuoi Tre, the fire was spotted at approximately 2pm on October 1 from the façade of a karaoke parlor on Tran Nhan Tong Street in Cau Giay District, a popular entertainment destination for Hanoians as it is home to scores of karaoke bars, restaurants and brand outlets. The vicious fire quickly spread to adjacent buildings whose exteriors were adorned with flammable materials.

It took the local fire brigade six hours to completely extinguish the blaze and by then, the façades of the four eight-story houses were reduced to ash. Many motorbikes and cars parked on the nearby pavement and along the street were also destroyed.

Photos via Zing.

Yesterday, relevant government agencies revealed the initial result of their investigation into the disaster, reports VnExpress. The cause for the fire was determined to be oxyacetylene gas welding on the second floor of the karaoke parlor at 68 Tran Nhan Tong, the most damaged of the four. According to the report, a mishap in the welding process caused a small flame at the edge of a banner in front of the second floor.

After a few failed attempts to put out the fire, parlor employees gave up and ran out. By then, the blaze, empowered by strong winds, had already engulfed the building and spread to adjacent buildings. A few patrons who were on lower floors managed to escape, but the fire spread too quickly for those on the upper floors.

The report also stated that of the 13 fatalities, 12 were classmates at the National Academy of Public Administration; their trip to the karaoke parlor was to celebrate the completion of a course. Only one in the group of friends survived.

According to eyewitnesses, the inferno was progressing too fast for the victims to get out. Pham Duc Nhan, a mechanic at a nearby garage, was talking to his friends who worked as security guards for the parlor when it started.

“It was around 1:30pm. We were hanging out when I smelled something burning. I just thought that somebody had overcooked their meal,” the 26-year-old shared with Zing. “When I was leaving, I even joked that if people keep overcooking things like that one day it could lead to a fire.”

Nhan was the first one to spot the blaze on the second floor and immediately started rallying people to help evacuate patrons in the parlor. The group of friends tried to visit every floor of the building but by then, the fire had gotten out of control.

“In the karaoke rooms, [the patrons] had no idea what was going on and were still singing,” Nhan added. “I banged on their door and shouted to get them moving.”

The buildings after the fire. Photos via Zing.

According to local police, Tuoi Tre reports, an analysis of the building showed that the large amount of soundproof padding used inside the karaoke rooms contributed to the asphyxiation of the victims. The padding didn’t help ward off the fire but instead fueled it.

The rescue team also had a lot of difficulty dousing the fire, although the buildings are located on an open street with two accessible sides. This is largely due to the steel frames that made up the clutter of banners and signs in front of the parlor. Firefighters had to completely dismantle these structures before getting inside, thus slowing down rescue efforts significantly. The construction of the building’s stairs also hindered the fire brigade as they were too narrow, while the fire escape was made of steel, which became scorching hot in the fire.

Motorbikes parked on the street were also damaged in the blaze. Photo via Zing.

“Firefighting efforts always go along with rescue efforts. Saving lives should always go first, too,” Senior Lieutenant General Le Quy Vuong of the Hanoi police told Zing. “However, every single floor of the karaoke bar was closed off with all windows and doors shut off, which hindered the rescue process.”

Vuong also added that when the fire happened, the parlor at 68 Tran Nhan Tong had only been operating for 10 days. According to the law, businesses can’t be run without prior fire safety assessment by local authorities.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also recently "instructed Hanoi police to soon investigate and find the cause as well as to deal strictly with any violations", according to an earlier statement by the government, reports Tuoi Tre.

At the moment, officials of Cau Giay District have temporarily closed down all karaoke parlors on Tran Nhan Tong to examine their fire safety equipment and disaster readiness, according to VnExpress.

The four buildings before the fire. Photo via Tuoi Tre.

This is unfortunately not the first time that a karaoke parlor in Vietnam has caught fire. In 2014, residents on Saigon’s Tran Quoc Thao Street had the scare of their lives when a karaoke bar went up in flames, killing one and scorching nearby buildings. The cause was also due to a spark on the building’s banner.

[Top photo via Zing]

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