Police launch criminal probe into deadly fire at Saigon apartment building

By Quoc Thang   March 26, 2018 | 05:17 pm PT
Police launch criminal probe into deadly fire at Saigon apartment building
Motorbikes in a basement parking lot are damaged from a fire that killed 13 people Carina Plaza, HCMC, on March 23. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
While the incident has been ruled an accident, anyone found responsible for the Carina Plaza fire may still face up to 12 years in jail.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City have launched a criminal investigation into alleged violations behind an apartment fire that killed 13 in the city last Friday.

An initial investigation into the deadly fire at Carina Plaza found that the fire had started from a scooter in the building's basement parking lot.

"The crime scene investigation is basically completed, and our initial suspicion that someone had triggered the explosions and started the fire has been eliminated. The scooter catching fire was just an accident," said Colonel Nguyen Sy Quang, Ho Chi Minh City police's spokesman.

Police have however discovered many signs of fire safety violations at the building, according to Quang.

During the initial investigation, police found that the fire alarms did not go off, the automatic sprinklers in the building failed to deploy and the emergency lighting did not turn on during the fire. The fire doors in the building had also been wedged open with bricks, allowing smoke to billow up to residential floors, causing the deaths of most of the 13 victims.

The building's investors meanwhile claimed that the fire safety system was always inspected by authorities twice a year, and there had been no previous safety incidents since the building's opening in 2009.

Police have retrieved camera footage from the basement and interviewed witnesses for further investigation. Anyone found guilty of violating fire safety and fire fighting regulations, resulting in the death of three or more people may face up to 12 years in prison according to Vietnam's Penal Code.

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.

Carina Plaza's residents on Sunday filed a complaint to the prime minister blaming the building's investor, management board and the government agencies responsible for inspecting the building’s fire safety for the incident. In the petition, the residents demanded compensation from the investor, safety inspections from authorities and called for the police to punish those responsible for causing the fire.

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