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Saigon apartment investor arrested month after deadly fire

By Quoc Thang   April 20, 2018 | 06:57 pm PT
Saigon apartment investor arrested month after deadly fire
Cars are burned after a deadly fire at Carina Plaza in Saigon on March 23, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The investor of Carina Plaza alleged failed to comply with regulations, resulting in a fire that killed 13 last month.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested the investor of an apartment building on Friday for safety violations that caused a fire to kill 13 residents a month ago.

Nguyen Van Tung, 41, former director of Hung Thanh Company, is accused of multiple fire safety violations at the company's Carina Plaza that led to the deadly fire on March 23.

Investigation found the fire started at around 1:15 a.m. from a scooter in the building's basement parking lot, and spread for over 13 minutes without any alerts when most residents were asleep.

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. All 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 victims.

Police said the fire could have been prevented with a small fire extinghuiser if there had been someone on guard at the time.

Tung, who lived on the building's first floor, was among more than 90 people injured and hospitalized after the fire. He was dismissed as head of the company recently. Prior to his arrest, he had refused to cooperate with the investigators, citing health issues, police said.

A representative from Hung Thanh Company told VnExpress that it will comply with the authorities' decisions to punish any violators.

"There are mistakes from our side," the person said.

The company said it has paid more than VND20 billion ($880,000) to repair the fire's damage and compensate its victims. The building is scheduled to reopen in a couple weeks.

Opened to residents in 2012, Carina Plaza has three 14-20 story buildings with more than 700 apartments as well as a shopping and entertainment center.

Between August 2012 and 2017, the complex was inspected by fire safety authorities 21 times and violations were found in three occasions. An inspection in late 2017 found no safety problems.

The fire last month, which also incinerated 13 cars and 150 motorbikes, has been considered one of the deadliest to hit the city, second only to a blaze that killed 60 people at the six-story International Trade Center in October 2002.

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