A fire tore through a three-story karaoke bar in southern Vietnam, killing 33 people, authorities said on Thursday, making it the deadliest fire in Vietnam since 2002.
It is the latest in a series of karaoke bar fires in Vietnam in recent times. The disaster prompted Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to order nationwide fire inspections at karaoke bars and other establishments deemed high risk, including pubs, discos and nightclubs.
Police say an electrical short caused the fire on Tuesday night on the second floor of Karaoke An Phu in Binh Duong province, north of Ho Chi Minh City. Nearby residents told local media they heard loud bangs at the time.
Flames spread across the second and third floors, blocking exits and thick smoke in the hallways. Police said the fire broke out quickly in the building with few windows, wooden furniture and flammable soundproof foam panels. The bar staff tried to put out the fire but were unsuccessful.
Police said shortly after that, people inside were trapped. Many theater rooms were locked, making it difficult for rescuers to get in and help about 60 employees and customers. Some people did not follow instructions to escape quickly because they were drunk, the provincial police chief, Colonel Trinh Ngoc Quyen, said.
Some guests jumped about 25 feet from the building’s balcony to safety, even though they were injured doing so. Several others were found dead in the toilet.
The fire was extinguished at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, but the search for victims continued into the evening. Of the 33 dead, 17 were men and 16 were women, police said. Only 19 people have been identified, Colonel Quyen said on Thursday, because burns make work very difficult.
The fire in Binh Duong has only raised concerns in recent years about safety standards at karaoke bars.
After a number of karaoke bar fires in Hanoi – one in 2014 that killed five people, one in 2016 that killed 13 and a month ago that killed three firefighters – the capital’s officials said they would close. Doors of shops do not have adequate fire safety measures. Ho Chi Minh City has stepped up fire inspection at karaoke bars, discos and clubs.
Karaoke An Phu, built in 2016, has passed several fire safety checks, including this year, the provincial government said.
Nguyen The Truyen, a lawyer in Hanoi who specializes in corporate law, argues that regulatory agencies conducting fire protection inspections in Vietnam are not reviewed by any independent and national organizations. It is necessary to “review the effectiveness and working capacity of the fire prevention and fighting force. . “