A fire engulfed a nine-story apartment complex in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan district, killing at least 56 residents and injuring 37 more, authorities said Wednesday. Children were among the casualties.
The blaze started not long before midnight and wasn’t subdued until 2 a.m. local time. Television footage showed firefighters climbing ladders, hosing down the flames.
First responders struggled to stop the inferno in the building, which is squeezed into a narrow alley large enough for only motorcycles to easily pass. State news reported that fire trucks had to park almost 400 meters from the site, delaying efforts to bring the blaze under control.
By daybreak, a pillar of smog danced above the tower where just hours before tenants were seen jumping from windows. Nearby hospitals were tending to the wounded and counting the dead, said Vu Hoang Phuong of Hanoi Medical University Hospital.
The apartment complex housed around 150 people.
The Ministry of Public Security has announced that police have already taken the landlord into custody on charges that he violated the fire code. An investigation is still ongoing.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited what was left of the building on Wednesday, a government statement said. He paid his respects to those devastated by the fire, promising enhanced fire safety regulations for low-income urban housing.
The incident comes two days after U.S. President Joe Biden visited the city to broker a diplomatic agreement with the ruling Communist party.