Fire kills at least 55 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

HANOI, Vietnam -- An immense fire swept through a five-story office building in central Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, killing at least 55 people and injuring 94. Authorities said 19 people remained missing.

Firefighters hampered by inadequate equipment struggled to contain the blaze, which apparently began in a popular discotheque and quickly spread through the building. The building housed many small businesses, including the offices of some foreign firms.

Bob Ogburn, press officer at the American Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, said that at least one American died in the fire. He wouldn't identify the victim, who was a Vietnamese-American, until the person's family had been notified. "There might be other missing Americans, we're not certain," Ogburn said.

Tran Huu Duc, chief of the HCMC fire-ambulance technical team, said 55 people died in the fire. Investigators are trying to pinpoint the cause of the blaze, which apparently began around 1:45 p.m. in the Blue disco, a popular dance club in the former Saigon.

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