Vietnam entertainment venue owner arrested after fire kills 32

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnamese authorities have arrested the owner of an entertainment establishment where a fire killed 32 people earlier this month, police said yesterday.

The blaze nine days ago tore through a three-story entertainment venue in a dense residential area of ​​Thuan An town, north of Ho Chi Minh City’s commercial hub.

It trapped customers and staff as smoke filled the staircase and blocked the fire escape.

Seventeen people were injured, many with broken bones after the flames forced them to jump from the roof, police said.

Binh Duong provincial police confirmed in a statement yesterday that bar owner Le Anh Xuan, 42, was arrested a day earlier and will face criminal charges related to violating fire prevention regulations. He will be held for four months while the investigation continues, police added. While 15 of the injured have been discharged from hospital, two of the most seriously injured are still receiving medical treatment.

Firefighters and onlookers at the scene of a deadly blaze that engulfed an entertainment establishment in Binh Duong province, north of Ho Chi Minh City. PHOTO: AFP

The bodies of the 32 people killed have been handed over to their families. Firefighters initially struggled to enter the building due to the intensity of the blaze and had to tear down part of a wall to get inside.

Sixty people were inside the 30-bedroom venue when the fire broke out and eight people were found dead in the facility’s toilets.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, survivors described their harrowing escape from the fire.

“We thought we were going to die,” Do Thanh Tu told state media.

Authorities initially blamed the blaze on an electrical short, but said the site had met all fire safety standards during checks for the past three years. The police partly blamed the intoxicated singers.

“They were intoxicated. So when the staff informed them about the fire…people in some rooms didn’t listen,” provincial police chief Trinh Ngoc Quyen told a news conference.

In what was previously Vietnam’s deadliest blaze, 13 people died in a 2018 fire at an apartment complex in Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2016, a fire at a karaoke bar in Hanoi, the capital, killed 13 people, prompting a nationwide assessment of fire prevention measures in entertainment establishments. Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has ordered a new inspection of high-risk sites.

Last month, three firefighters died after trying to put out a blaze at another entertainment establishment in Hanoi.

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