|Bình Dương Police Department officers speak at the press conference. — VNA/VNS Photo Chí Tưởng|
BÌNH DƯƠNG — Some customers inside the karaoke bar that went up in flames causing the deaths of 33 people ignored warnings and even continued to sing as staff tried to get them to evacuate, police have revealed.
Colonel Nguyễn Thanh Điệp, Deputy Director of Bình Dương Police Department, told a press conference on Thursday that this complacency contributed to the loss of lives.
It was also revealed that some drunken guests tried to get staff to sing with them as employees desperately tried to evacuate the building.
A total of 32 people were killed inside An Phú Karaoke in Thuận An City on Tuesday night. Another died later in hospital as a result of injuries sustained jumping out of the window to escape the inferno.
Initial investigations suggest an electrical short circuit inside a karaoke room started the fire.
At a press conference on Thursday morning, police said when smoke was detected in room 303 of the karaoke building, four people ran out of the room to call for help.
Staff then ran and called on guests to evacuate, as well as using fire extinguishers to try and put out the fire.
"The panicked mentality of guests, as well as the complacency of some other guests in detecting and evacuating is the reason for the loss of lives in this fire," said Colonel Điệp.
“Many guests ignored the warnings, and still stayed in their karaoke rooms to sing.”
Colonel Trịnh Ngọc Quyên, Director of Bình Dương Police Department, added: "Some inebriated guests even dragged employees inside to sing when they came to evacuate.
"If the guests exited immediately after the warning, the damage could have been less severe."
When asked about the accountability of authorities in the fire, Quyên said that most karaoke venues are aware of the fire protection rules which are publicised regularly by the Police Department of Fire Prevention and Fighting and Rescue.
He added: "However, due to the panic that ensued when the fire happened, the implementation of the firefighting protocols was hindered."
Preliminary investigations revealed there was an emergency exit in the building, but it has not yet been established if the bar meets fire protection standards.
"The Bình Dương Police Department is focused on further investigating the scene, in order to correctly identify the cause of the fire," said Colonel Điệp.
If wrongdoings are discovered, some individuals may face criminal charges.
Karaoke An Phú, at 166C 1A Street, An Phú Ward, Thuận An City, Bình Dương is a 30-room karaoke service built on an area of 500 square metres.
Legally, the karaoke meets the operation regulations, with a business licence granted by the Thuận An People's Committee on December 9, 2015, further amended on September 7, 2016.
Certifications of fire prevention are also granted by the Bình Dương Police Department of Fire Prevention and Fighting and Rescue in 2017, with the building having emergency exits and fire extinguishers as regulated.
Since the bar opened six years ago it has been inspected for fire safety once each in 2019, 2021 and 2022 and cleared every time.
However, An Phú karaoke was fined five times due to reasons unrelated to fire protection. The violations were: karaoke activity over regulated time, no legal contracts signed with employees, and no employee name tags.
"No violations related to drugs and social evils are recorded at An Phú Karaoke," said Nguyễn Thanh Tâm, Chairman of Thuận An City.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính signed a dispatch to be sent to the Minister of Public Security and Chairs of centrally-run municipalities and provinces in the wake of the fatal incident.
The Government leader conveyed “profound sympathies to the families and relatives of the victims”.
He asked Bình Dương People’s Committee to provide support for the victims’ households, work closely with the public security ministry to address the consequences of the incident and investigate the cause, and find and punish those responsible.
"We must quickly identify the victims, investigate the cause of the fire, as well as follow closely the directives of the Prime Minister," said Mai Hùng Dũng, Deputy Permanent Vice Chairman of Bình Dương People's Committee. — VNS