A big fire broke out Thursday at a 33-floor building that was under construction in Hanoi, injuring 11 workers.
The fire started at around 4 p.m. in the basement of one of the twin towers invested in by state-owned power utility Electricity of (EVN). The fire wasn't extinguished until about five hours later.
General To Xuan Thieu, vice director of Hanoi Firefighting Department, said some 40 workers were working from the 11th floor to the 33rd floor at the construction site when the fire started.
All workers were rescued, but because the smoke was thick and high, many workers panicked and injured themselves when trying to flee the building, Thieu said.
In fact, 11 workers were rushed to the Saint Paul Hospital for smoke inhalation, loss of consciousness and panic, but they have all recovered.
Nguyen Van Hung, one of the injured, said he was cleaning the basement with seven others when he saw smoke.
"Everyone tried to escape quickly. However, due to smoke, we couldn't see our way clearly, but we kept heading to the stairs in panic," Hung said.
Nguyen Huy Hoc, another worker, told Thanh Nien that a group of welders at the underground floor let sparks from their equipment fall onto the pile of air conditioning system materials, and the fire quickly spread.
Thieu, meanwhile, said his department has yet to identify the cause, but they found many flammable materials such as sponges in the basement.
According to Thieu, at the time of the incident, the building had yet to be equipped with firefighting systems.
Worse still, the efforts of nearly 300 firefighters with 20 fire trucks were almost handicapped by the lack of firefighting devices compatible with the building's height, Thanh Nien reporters observed.
Their turnable ladders, for example, couldn't reach above the 20th floor, so they had to use the construction site's ladders and pulleys to bring workers down. Meanwhile, firefighters' oxygen masks did not allow them to stay longer than a couple of minutes in the basement to extinguish the fire.
Work on the building was started in 2009 together with its twin, which is 29 floors high. EVN planned to put a total of VND2 trillion (US$95.2 million) into the towers, which would serve as the utility's headquarters when complete.