Taiwan orders checks of confined entertainment venues after fire

Deputy Interior Minister Hua Ching-chun (花敬群)(CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The government will ask all local governments to carry out complete fire safety inspections of karaoke bars and similar venues after a deadly fire broke out at a popular karaoke outlet in Taipei, Deputy Interior Minister Hua Ching-chun (花敬群) said Monday.

The fire broke out on the fifth floor of a 14-floor building housing the Linsen branch of Cashbox Partyworld KTV and left at least five people dead and one person in critical condition.

The Taipei City Fire Department later found that the business’s fire alarm, smoke alarm, sprinkler and emergency broadcasting systems were turned off at the time of the blaze.

“If the company wanted to turn those systems off, it shouldn’t have opened for business yesterday,” Hua said, describing it as “gross human negligence” to turn off major alarms in a confined, crowded space.

Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said Monday the city government will conduct a complete inspection of fire protection systems and equipment in confined public places, including karaoke bars and cinemas.

It will also adopt a more stringent standard for inspections of Cashbox Partyworld KTV outlets in the city, and if their fire systems and equipment fail the inspection, their operations should be suspended, Ko said.

Businesses will also be asked to make improvements in 30 days, and those that fail to do so could be fined repeatedly from NT$6,000 (US$199.70) to NT$30,000 until the problem has been resolved, the fire department said.

The Linsen store has suspended operations, but the fire systems at other branches in Taipei passed inspections Monday, according to Wu Chun-hung (吳俊鴻), the head of the fire department.

The Cashbox Partyworld KTV has six branch stores in the city — Sogo, Dunnan, Songchiang, Nanjing and Chunghwa in addition to the Linsen outlet.

The Cashbox Partyworld KTV has passed all fire safety inspections at the Linsen location since 2018, Wu said, except for not asking for a review of its drawings and submitting a fire security proposal after applying for a change to its building use permit.

That same location last passed a routine fire safety inspection on March 30, according to the fire department.

The fire department found at the time that work on the building’s elevator was taking place on the fifth floor and thought the building’s fire systems might have to be shut down to prevent false alarms during the renovation.

But footage from the outlet’s security camera showed that the fire started in a storage area on the fifth floor, and the cause of the fire might not be related to the renovation given the distance between the two areas, according to the fire department.