Hanoi fire that kills 56 draws attention to lax safety standards in Vietnam — Radio Free Asia

The nine-storey apartment building in Hanoi was engulfed in flames this week The killing of 56 people highlighted Vietnam’s lax fire safety standards.

Deputy Prime Minister Tran Le Quang ordered an investigation, along with stricter regulations for small residential buildings, according to a government statement.

One tenant, whose family has lived in a small 30-square-meter (323-square-foot) unit in a five-story building for many years, said that after Wednesday’s fire in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan section, he checked his building’s fire prevention system and realized… There is nothing.

“Before the tragedy happened, I had already studied the layout of the building and the surrounding area to know how to escape or how to jump to a neighboring house in case of a fire,” the man, who requested to remain anonymous for security reasons, said on Friday.

“Our building does not properly equip tenants with any fire prevention equipment.”

Burning motorcycles and damage on the ground floor of a 10-storey building after a major fire in an apartment building in Hanoi on September 13, 2023. Source: Nhac Nguyen/AFP

His building is located in a small alley in the Ba Dinh district of Hanoi. The road is so narrow that it would be impossible for fire trucks to reach the building in the event of a fire.

There are no water taps near the building, and it is not equipped with hoses.

He said he had serious concerns for his family’s safety, but the owner didn’t seem to care.

“After the incident, I was waiting to see if the owner or the company managing the building would issue any alerts or provide any firefighting equipment, but I did not receive any notification, warning or any equipment at all,” he said.

He said that living in such an unsafe space is not an option. It’s the only place they can afford it.

“For people like us who migrate from rural areas to the city, we don’t have much choice,” the man said. “I have always had a desire to live somewhere safe from fires and floods, but our current income only allows us to rent here in the slums.”

Small apartments

Hanoi has about 2,000 similar small apartments, while Ho Chi Minh City in the south has about 4,200 of them, according to media reports.

The man said that many people in his neighborhood were in worse condition than him. He once inspected a seven-story building in the area where his friend lived.

“The owner told me that they built the seven-storey building illegally, but the local government did not know,” he said. “From the outside, the building looks like a beautiful house, but when you enter you will notice that it is divided into many small rooms intended for rent by students and low-income people.”

Hoang Anh Tuan, director-general of the Construction Management Department of the Ministry of Construction, told local newspaper Pioneer (Tian Phong) that “small apartment” is not an approved housing category under Vietnamese law.

Relatives cry as they wait outside a funeral home to identify the victims of a major fire in an apartment building in Hanoi on September 13, 2023. Source: AFP

Director-General of the Ministry’s Science, Technology and Environment Department, Vu Ngoc Anh, said the micro-apartments were operating similarly to residential apartment buildings, but without the fire and safety systems required by law.

Units in similar buildings are available for rent throughout the city. A Facebook group called “House rentals, houses for rent, small apartments, cheap rooms for rent in Hanoi” advertises a newly opened small apartment building with 27 rooms in the city’s Nam Tu Liem district.

But the person who posted the ad did not respond to RFA’s questions regarding fire prevention and evacuation measures.

what should be done

The man, who lives in a small apartment, said that he and his wife discussed fire prevention measures and agreed on a plan in case a fire broke out.

The man said: “I instructed my family on how to use electricity and gas or what we should do when a fire occurs.” “For example, we should unplug electrical appliances after use or always check if there is a gas leak.”

The family also drew a map of the local area and made plans for what to do with the children and their valuables.

“If a fire breaks out, we should stay calm and figure out the best solution for our family,” he said.

He said the building’s electrical system is overrun, and with so many people living in the tight space, the floors are packed.

“I think if a fire breaks out, it will be difficult for people there to escape, and they will be in a similar situation to the Thanh Xuan fire.”

Fire safety

After the Thanh Xuan disaster, the demand for fire protection equipment increased sharply. Sources told Vietnamese radio RFA that the prices of some items had doubled.

Nguyen Dinh Ha, a resident of the upscale Vinhom Times City building in Vinh Tuy district, said his buildings and other newly built residential buildings in the capital must meet the city’s fire prevention requirements before being delivered to end users.

Therefore, these residential buildings are not subject to the city Next examination Fire prevention work in multi-family buildings.

A security guard sits as residents watch from afar a large fire in an apartment building in Hanoi on September 13, 2023. Source: Nhac Nguyen/AFP

He suggested that the city should pay attention to preventing fires in houses in small alleys and small apartments because their construction did not follow city standards like residential building development projects.

He also recommended installing fire prevention equipment in old residential buildings to enable them to meet current standards.

Minh Tuan, a Hanoi resident who moved from an apartment building in the Mai Tre district, Nam Tu Liem district, told Radio Free Asia that after the fatal accident in Thanh Xuan, his building introduced stricter fire prevention measures, requiring residents not to return Charging their electric cars. After 11:00 pm

Translated by Anna Fu. Edited by Eugene Wong and Malcolm Foster.

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