Caged-balcony apartments lead to a dead end

July 12, 2018 - 12:44

Images of houses and old apartment buildings with windows and balconies closed in with steel cages have been popular to Hanoians for many years.

Balconies installed with iron cages known as "tiger cages" are common in apartment buildings in Hà Nội. – photo
Viet Nam News

Hà Nội – Images of houses and old apartment buildings with windows and balconies closed in with steel cages have been popular to Hanoians for many years.

Known as a “tiger cage” or “bird’s nest” they were installed by owners to give extra living space inside.

But these were thought of as a problem, blocking routes for firefighters in the event of a blaze, and dangerously hampering rescue attempts.

Despite many warning, people still continued to ignore advice and install the cages.

This was particularly common in old apartment blocks in places such as Thành Công of Ba Đình District, Thanh Xuân Bắc in Thanh Xuân District, Kim Liên of Đống Đa District, and Bách Khoa of Hai Bà Trưng District.

Cages could in some cases enlarge the living area by up to 12sq.m in urban areas.

Many residents said the cages not only deterred thieves, but also prevented children from falling.

Colonel Trần Văn Vụ, from Hà Nội’s Fire Fighter Force told Kinh Tế và Đô Thị (Economy and Urban) Newspaper: “The residents in old and new apartment buildings and residential houses usually seek out measures to prevent thieves but not fire.

“They reinforce the windows and balconies with no clear standards. As a result, their only exit is the one staircase and front door.”

As a result, he added, they had inadvertently blocked a fire escape for their families.

In recent years, many fires happened in apartment buildings or houses with caged balconies costing the lives of several who may be alive today if the cages were not in place.

When a fire breaks out, the firefighters would have to cut the iron cages to gain access which is time-consuming and especially dangerous in emergencies.

Earlier this month, a fire happened in an apartment building in Thanh Xuân District.

The old building with narrow corridors and many obstacles caused difficulties to firefighters approaching while the apartment’s balcony was blocked by an iron cage.

The firefighters had to cut the cage to rescue 20 people inside. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

In another case, two people in a 4-storey house in Vọng Street of Hai Bà Trưng District were not so lucky.

They both died after being trapped inside as firefighters could not cut through the steel in time.

Despite these fatalities, the cages still exist, and in some cases, more have been erected.

Many said that it was necessary to have regulations asking house and apartment owners to remove the cages.

But it seemed to be a “mission impossible” - because, there would not be enough staff to inspect and remove thousands that exist city-wide

Dr. Ngô Văn Xiêm, a former principal of Fire Fighting University (Ministry of Public Security) offered a solution.

“It is difficult to ask people to remove the cages,” he said.

“But apartment owners could redesign the cages with small doors which would be used as an exit in case of fire.” – VNS