Hanoi orders inspection of residential buildings after fatal fire

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Hanoi's authorities Friday said they have asked police and related agencies to investigate the safety of local apartment buildings, particularly in terms of fire prevention.

The request came after two people died in a fire at a building this week.

The city's People's Committee has also ordered the investor of the JSC34 building in Thanh Xuan District to report on the work's quality after the accident.

In an interview published Saturday by the VnExpress newswire, Nguyen Truong Tien, vice director of the Hanoi Construction Corporation, which owns project investor Construction Joint-stock Company No.34, said they planned to report on the cause of the accident, the losses suffered and compensation to be paid to affected people next Tuesday.

It is suspected that someone put ash or coal in their trash bags before throwing it into the building's garbage room, sparking a fire on Wednesday evening.

Smoke then spread to upper floors through a pipe that families shared to dump their trash, and was especially thick on the two top floors of the 18-storied building.

Forty four people were rushed to local hospitals with asphyxiation caused by the smoke. Vuong Lan Phuong, 43, and her 10-year-old son Luu Gia Minh died later the same day.

Asked about the building's insurance against fires and explosions, Tien said the corporation didn't know if its member company had purchased such insurance.

In the meantime, the country's largest insurance companies said they haven't signed any insurance contracts with the JSC34 building's investor, VnExpress reported.

Experts said it was very likely that the company, No.34, had not bought any insurance, which was a common practice in Vietnam partly because service fees charged at buildings weren't enough for investors to pay insurance premiums for fires and explosions that usually amount to 0.1 -0.2 percent of a building's construction costs.

They also attributed this situation low awareness among investors and lenient punishments imposed on those who failed to buy insurances as regulated.

In a separate case, Vo Thanh Duc, director of the southern province of Binh Duong's Police, on Friday said related agencies' reports showed that electrical leakage was likely to cause a fierce fire killing seven people on Thursday morning.

However, further investigation was still needed, Duc said, adding that they would investigate into allegations of arson as well.

Initial reports showed that the fire broke out at around 3 a.m. from Sieu Vinh Loi Company's headquarters which was also director Nguyen Thi Kieu's house.

It was soon spread to the adjacent factory manufacturing foam mattresses and furniture.

Seven people, including Kieu and her five-month-old son, were burned to death.

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