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Sep 21, 2023 / 11:09

All apartments across Vietnam must be undergone fire safety inspection by mid-November: PM

Vietnam's national police are requested to conduct fire prevention inspection in types of high-density housing that are prone to fire and explosion.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has ordered a general inspection of fire safety in all apartments, tenement buildings, high-density rental houses, private buildings and offices throughout Vietnam by November 15.

The move follows a tragic fire at a tenement building in an alley on Khuong Ha Street in Hanoi's Thanh Xuan District on September 12. Officials confirmed that 56 people were killed and 37 others injured. Ten of the victims were children.

Tenement building on Khuong Ha Street in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District caught fire on September 12 night. Photo: VGP

PM Chinh said that the apartment building inferno was a "catastrophic incident". As a result, the head of government has ordered the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to conduct fire safety inspections in high-density housing types that are prone to fire and explosion.

The MPS has instructed fire and rescue police in all provinces and cities nationwide to inspect apartment blocks for compliance with fire prevention and suppression regulations. Police in all 63 localities have been instructed to strengthen fire safety enforcement in these buildings and to punish fire safety violators.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh personally inspected the Hanoi tenement building fire on September 13. Photo: VGP

The government has issued several guidelines on fire safety, but compliance with fire prevention laws remains weak, leading to fire-related tragedies like the one in Hanoi on September 12, the MPS said.

The ministry has tasked local police officers to raise awareness of fire safety among landlords and tenants, and provide them with firefighting, prevention and rescue skills through TV channels and social networks such as Zalo and Facebook.

The Ministry of Construction is responsible for supplementing fire prevention and firefighting standards for tenement  buildings and high-density rental facilities. The Ministry will soon amend individual housing regulations and standards.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is asked to issue regulations soon on the responsibility for behind-the-meter electricity management. The electric power industry will inspect and identify projects, facilities and households that fail to ensure electrical safety.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited the victims of the tragic fire at Bach Mai General Hospital on September 13. Photo: VGP Photo: VGP

PM Chinh also asked localities to improve civil construction supervision. Localities are asked to distribute leaflets to people on fire prevention and escape skills with short, easy-to-remember guidelines. The Ministry of Education and Training has been tasked with improving fire safety knowledge among students.

The tragic inferno warns of lax fire safety management

At 11:50 pm on September 12, a nine-story tenement building at Lane 150/29, Khuong Ha Street, Khuong Dinh Ward, Thanh Xuan District caught fire. The fire spread from the first floor down the stairs to the other floors, claiming 56 lives. Most of the victims suffered from smoke inhalation and jumped from high floors to neighboring houses.

Senior Colonel Duong Duc Hai, deputy director of the municipal police department, said this was the most catastrophic inferno in Hanoi's history and a warning of lax management of fire safety. "The fire revealed major shortcomings in the management of construction contracts and fire safety, especially in residential and tenement buildings," Hai said.

Numerous vehicles burned in the Hanoi fire on September 12. Photo: VGP

According to the construction permit issued by the Thanh Xuan District People's Committee to the owner of the tenement building, Nghiem Quang Minh, 44, a resident of Cau Giay District, the house is allowed to have six floors with an area of about 200 square meters, a mezzanine and an attic.

"However, he built the house with 10 floors, including a basement and an attic. We have decided to detain Minh for four months to investigate fire safety violations," Hai added.

Dinh Tien Dung, secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee, said police and the city Party Committee's inspection office would conduct an investigation into the responsibilities of those involved in the incident. He has also called for thorough inspections of all tenement blocks in the city following the tragic fire.

Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Dinh Tien Dung inspects the site of the apartment building fire. Photo: Thanh Hai/ The Hanoi Times

Arriving at the scene on September 13, Dung stressed: "We have asked the police to investigate the case and severely punish those responsible. Authorities in all districts have been asked to carefully check the fire prevention systems of all facilities in the area and resolve any problems before reporting to the municipal People's Committee by October 30."

According to the Hanoi People's Committee, there are currently around 2,000 tenement buildings in Hanoi, mainly concentrated in the districts of Bac Tu Liem, Nam Tu Liem, Dong Da, Thanh Xuan, Cau Giay and Tay Ho.

The recent tragic inferno in Hanoi is now the deadliest fire in Vietnam in 21 years, after the ITC shopping mall fire in Ho Chi Minh City which killed 60 people in 2002.

Hanoi authorities have offered financial aid, including VND37 million (US$1,530) for each deceased and VND12.4 million for each injured person. The municipal government called for the suspension of all cultural, sports and entertainment activities in four days (from September 14 to 17) as a silent tribute to those who perished in the deadliest fire in the city's history.

Officials and staff of the Hanoi Party Committee donated money to help the families and victims of the small apartment fire in Khuong Dinh Ward, Thanh Xuan District. Photo: Thanh Hai/ The Hanoi Times

Prior to this deadly fire in Hanoi, the worst in the capital in 21 years, Vietnam has experienced several fatal fires in recent years.

A year ago, a fire at a karaoke bar in Binh Duong Province killed 32 people and injured 17. The owner was later arrested for violating fire safety regulations.

In 2018, 13 people died in a fire at the Carina apartment building in Ho Chi Minh City. Another 13 people died in a fire at a karaoke bar in Hanoi's Cau Giay district in 2016.