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Suspect charged in deadly ‘ghost building’ fire in Taiwan

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Suspect charged in deadly ‘ghost building’ fire in Taiwan

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan prosecutors formally charged a homicide and arson suspect on Friday in the case of an October blaze that killed 46 people and injured dozens.

The suspect, Huang Ge-ge, is accused of deliberately pouring hot ashes of mosquito-repellent incense on the couch in the room where her partner, Kuo Ching-wen, lived, according to a statement released by city prosecutors. southern port. of Kaohsiung, where the fire took place.

Prosecutors said Ms Huang, 52, was upset that Mr Kuo, 53, did not return her calls or respond to her messages on a messaging app after they had an argument earlier in the day. night.

Ms. Huang has been detained for two days after the fire on October 14, which started around 2 am. to prosecutors.

Ms. Huang left Mr. Kuo’s first-floor bedroom shortly after pouring the ashes on the couch, prosecutors said. The fire spread through the wooden furnished space and quickly engulfed the upper floors of the 13-story building, making it difficult for residents to escape – mostly poorer and older people who were sleeping at the time.

At the time of the fire, the building had suffered years of neglect and was inhabited by squatters, gamblers, sex workers and the elderly and poor. The average age of those killed in the fire was 62.

Ms. Huang “intended to make her boyfriend embarrassed and full of regret by setting the fire, which caused major disasters and innocent victims,” ​​and she “showed no regrets after committing the crime. ‘, prosecutors said in the statement, which also said they would seek the death penalty.

The blaze was the second deadliest in Taiwan since 1995, when a fire broke out at a karaoke club in the central city of Taichung, killing 64 people. He raised wider concerns about lax safety standards in the island’s aging structures. The once bustling building in Kaohsiung’s waterfront district, built in the 1980s, has been partly abandoned and has rapidly deteriorated in recent years, becoming what is often referred to as a “ghost building.”

Heaps of trash had accumulated on lower floors and in stairwells, which firefighters said had accelerated the spread of the fire and hampered rescue efforts.

The fire also highlighted the lack of support for poor and elderly people who desperately need housing and often have no choice but to live in dilapidated buildings.

After the fire, the Taiwanese government took an inventory of the oldest buildings on the island and ordered local governments to improve services for elderly people living alone. The Kaohsiung government also said it would pay compensation to relatives of those who died in the fire.

Suspect charged in deadly ‘ghost building’ fire in Taiwan

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