Angry residents complain to PM in wake of deadly Saigon fire

By Huu Nguyen, Duy Tran   March 25, 2018 | 08:09 pm PT
Nearly 500 people are asking for the investor to be punished for safety violations.

Hundreds of residents who are struggling to recover from a deadly fire at an apartment building in Ho Chi Minh City have filed a complaint to the government calling for its investor to be be punished.

A petition with nearly 500 signatures from the residents of Carina Plaza was sent to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Sunday regarding poor fire safety in the building and the fact that its investor has failed to step up to take responsibility.

The fire sent residents fleeing in a chaotic stampede after midnight on Friday, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 50 others.

An initial investigation has exposed that the fire alarms did not go off and the automatic sprinklers in the building failed to deploy. The fire started from a motorbike in a basement parking lot and the fire doors had been wedged open, allowing smoke to billow up to residential floors, while the emergency lighting did not turn on, leaving people stranded in the dark.

The fire, which incinerated 13 cars and 150 motorbikes, is one of the deadliest to hit the city after a blaze that killed 60 people at the six-story International Trade Center in October 2002.

A deadly fire breaks out at Carina Plaza in Ho Chi Minh City after midnight on March 23. Graphics by VnExpress

The deadly fire broke out at Carina Plaza in Ho Chi Minh City after midnight on March 23. Click on the image to enlarge. Graphics by VnExpress

It started at around 1:15 a.m. on Friday, just seven hours after residents held a meeting with the building's management board about fire risks, saying that guards in the parking lots often smoked, and that the elevator panels were overheating.

“We believe that all the losses and damage are down to the investor, the building’s management board and the government agencies responsible for inspecting the building’s fire safety,” the petition said.

The residents said that various other safety violations had threatened their lives and property in the past, but the investor had failed to deal with them.

They had asked for the entire fire safety system to be replaced, and for the elevators to be fixed so people stopped getting trapped in them.

Their demands include compensation for all the victims, including food and education expenses for all children under 18 years old who lost their parents in the fire.

Carina Plaza covers over 19,000 square meters (22,700 square yards) on Vo Van Kiet Street, District 8, more than half an hour southwest of the city center. The building has two blocks of 14 stories and one 20-story block, and is home to more than 700 families.

It was opened in 2009, and the investor has told reporters in wake of the fire there had been no previous safety incidents.

The investor, 577 JSC., has not met with residents since the fire, and an official announcement about what will happen next has not been issued.

A representative from Hung Thanh Company, a subsidiary of 577 JSC., showed up at 8 p.m. on Sunday to see frustrated faces.

People listen at Carina Plaza as a man from the buildings management unit reads from a paper that lists compensation they are going to receive from a deadly fire last week. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran

People listen at Carina Plaza as a man from the building's management unit reads the compensation they are going to receive following the deadly fire last week. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran

“We are really sorry for making an official announcement so late, but we have had to focus on fixing the damage, helping with the investigation, and supporting the victims,” he said.

He said the investor has paid more than VND1.8 billion ($79,000) in compensation to the victims, and all residents would receive VND300,000 per day to find temporary accommodation.

Work on one block is expected to be completed in 10 days, while the other two will take a month, he said.

“We really hope you understand. We will hold talks soon,” said the man, who said he also suffered head injuries while trying to rescue people from the fire.

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