A Vietnamese-American who had just arrived in the country the day before to celebrate the Lunar New Year died Friday afternoon in a fire in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
The fire broke out around 12:25 p.m. as people in a three-floor house in District 1 were having lunch and five to six kids were sleeping.
Ho Thi Mong Diep, 55, who was the sister of the house’s owner, ran upstairs to grab her identity papers and became trapped.
Tran Cao Van, a relative of the deceased woman, told Thanh Nien that he switched off the electricity immediately upon seeing the fire, and together with other relatives, evacuated the children from the house.
“When I brought the kids out safely, I came back and saw Diep going up to the third floor,” Van said.
“I intended to go there to pull her out but couldn’t since the wooden staircase had burned down.
“Smoke whirled up and I couldn’t see anything.”
It took local firefighters a long time to approach the fire since the house was located deep inside a narrow alley where a mass of electrical wires stood in their way.
They had to extinguish the fire from the house across the alley.
The blaze was put out at around 1 p.m.
Diep's body was found completely burned, along with everything else on the second and third floors, Vietnamnet reported.
Police are investigating what caused the fire.
The HCMC People's Committee recently approved a project to upgrade the city’s firefighting capabilities, as many large fires have broken out, causing serious damage due to firefighter’s lack of access to enough water to deal with them, according to a VnExpress report.
Between 2012 and 2025, the city's firefighting departments will be equipped with six helicopters and 198 firefighting and rescue teams will be added to the force.
HCMC also plans to increase the city’s fire hydrants to reach a ratio of one hydrant for every 300 meters of street.
The news website cited local authorities' statistics, saying that the city had 5,800 fire hydrants for 3,500 kilometers of streets, but needs a total of 23,000 to meet safety requirements.
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