Taichung, A fire that killed four people in a residential area in Taichung City on Saturday was most likely caused by a gas explosion in the basement of one of the buildings, the city’s fire bureau said, adding that it was not ruling out arson.
The bureau said it received a call at 4:17 a.m. about an explosion that had occurred in a building near Tunghai Villa Night Market, causing a fire that had spread to two other buildings on the street.
It took about an hour for firefighters to extinguish the blaze, in which four people perished, the bureau said.
The charred bodies of a 42-year-old man, a 37-year-old woman and their 8-year-old son were found in one of the buildings, and the body of a 73-year-old man in another, according to the bureau.
Based on its initial findings, the fire bureau said, it appeared that a gas leak in the basement of the building where the family lived had triggered the explosion.
In that building, the extensive damage in the basement and on first floor was consistent with the effects of an explosion, the bureau said.
The body of the man, identified by the surname Chen (陳), was found on the stairwell leading up to the third floor, while the bodies of his ex-wife, surnamed Chiang (蔣), and their son were found in the third floor apartment.
The fire started in that building and spread to an adjoining one and another across the street, according to the bureau.
It said it will investigate whether the fire was intentionally started, citing suspicions about two gas cylinders that were found next to Chen’s body, though this would appear to complicate its assessment that the explosion had occurred in the basement.
According to Taichung police, who are carrying out their own investigation, Chen and Chiang had divorced several months ago but continued to live together. He was unemployed, while she worked as a kindergarten teacher, the department said.
The city’s social welfare department, meanwhile, said it had provided counseling to the couple after Chiang reported instances of domestic violence in 2017 and 2018.
According to the fire bureau, the blaze Saturday spread to the building across the street, where the body of a 73-year-old man, surnamed Wu (吳), was found on the second floor.
Later in the day, Wu’s wife said she had heard a blast and tried to alert her neighbors. She said she grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put out the blaze but eventually had to flee without her husband, who had limited mobility.
In addition to the four fatalities, a 38-year-old man in one of the buildings injured his knee while trying to escape the fire, but he was otherwise unharmed, the fire bureau said.
Meanwhile, Taichung’s social welfare department said it would arrange free hotel accommodation for relatives of the victims arriving from out of town.
The city also said it will provide consolation funds to the deceased’s next of kin and to any residents injured in the fire.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel