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Fire police warn on rooftop ‘cage' deaths

Update: July, 02/2015 - 09:31
A training course on fire prevention for residents at a building in Ha Noi. Authority calls for further strengthening people's awareness on fire prevention. — Photo anninhthudo.vn
HA NOI (VNS)  — People still need to be made aware about preventing fires in cities, Major General Doan Viet Manh, director of the Department of Fire Police under the public security ministry, said yesterday.

He cited a recent fire that killed five members of a family on a rooftop, saying that more awareness was required, despite firefighters having better equipment.

Speaking on the sidelines of an ASEAN workshop being held in Ha Noi on July 1 and 2, Manh said it was easier to control and fight fires in the newer apartment blocks as they had complete firefighting equipment, following the ratification of the Law on Fire Prevention and Fighting in 2001.

"Still, the owners and residents of these apartment buildings are not always aware of the fire risks, resulting in fire equipment being left unattended, including fire hydrants without water supply," he said.

Manh said although the Government had invested in purchasing smaller fire trucks and longer water hoses, which could reach up to 100m, it was still necessary to get the general public's support regarding houses and apartment buildings constructed decades ago in the older residential quarters, with zigzagging roads and narrow alleys.

"The people in this area need to listen to the fire police's advice, take pre-emptive measures and, when a fire breaks out, co-operate fully with firefighters, such as by supplying sufficient water to extinguish the fire."

Dao Duong Quang, a firefighter present at the workshop, spoke about a fire last month in Hoang Mai District, Ha Noi, in which five members of a family were killed, as an instance of the consequences of low public awareness about protective measures.

In Viet Nam's cities, a building often has several storeys built over a small area, as land is expensive. These houses have only one side facing the street or alley, while the other three sides are surrounded by other houses. More often than not, they do not have balconies.

Ubiquitous structures

On the terrace of the tube-like block is a structure that looks like a room with steel walls and a roof made of corrugated steel sheets. This ‘room' is meant for drying clothes and housing a small bonsai garden. The design is ubiquitous across Viet Nam.

In the above-mentioned Hoang Mai inferno, when the family discovered that a fire had broken out at night, they all ran up to the fenced-in room on the top floor and cried for help in vain. They died of asphyxiation in that cage. The fire was later found to have been caused by a short circuit.

Quang said his department had repeatedly issued warnings against this type of house design in the mass media, but it seemed to have little effect. "The consequence is often deadly," he said sadly.

Quang said while making a steel cage on top of the house, people should provide an opening for an exit door, which can be kept locked for security, but can be opened when necessary.

At the workshop, participants shared the challenges facing firefighting activities in cities. In the case of Viet Nam, these challenges are narrow streets, high-rise buildings, unavailable emergency exits and no respect for safety regulations, besides dilapidated buildings and inflammable material used for construction.

The workshop was organised by the home affairs department of the Embassy of France in Viet Nam and the public security ministry of Viet Nam.

Firefighting department officials and firefighters from 10 ASEAN countries, three French experts on civil security and eight French companies specialising in firefighting equipment participated in the workshop.— VNS


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