HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The death toll from a fire at a karaoke parlor in southern Vietnam has climbed to 33, officials said Thursday, with police blaming some of the fatalities on customers who failed to heed employees’ warnings to flee and remained inside locked rooms.
The death in a hospital of a person who was injured in the Tuesday night fire added to the 32 victims — 17 men and 15 women — found earlier in a search of the four-story building housing the An Phu karaoke parlor in Thuan An city in Binh Duong province, the Vietnam News Agency and other state media reported.
The fire was put under control within an hour, but continued to smolder into the next day, hindering recovery efforts, officials said. Because the blaze collapsed parts of the building, efforts to conduct a complete search extended into Thursday.
About 60-70 people were inside the building at the time of the fire, and survivors either jumped — often injuring themselves in the process — or were rescued by firefighters using ladders. About 40 people were treated at hospitals, where about 10 remained Thursday in serious condition.
The online news site VnExpress quoted the provincial police director, Col. Trinh Ngoc Quyen, as saying at a Thursday news conference that the high number of deaths was due to some customers ignoring employees who went to the rooms where groups were singing to tell them to escape.
He was quoted saying that most of the customers were intoxicated, and that firefighters found that most of the rooms were locked from the inside.
Officials at the news conference said the establishment had passed fire inspections. The cause of the fire was not yet clear, though media reports said it was thought to have been an electrical short circuit. They speculated that the fire spread quickly because of flammable soundproofing foam and wooden fixtures.
In 2016, a fire at a large karaoke parlor in the capital, Hanoi, killed 13 people. The fire in the eight-story karaoke parlor quickly spread to several nearby buildings housing restaurants and other karaoke parlors.
Enforcement of safety standards at entertainment venues in many parts of Southeast Asia is sometimes lax and contributes to multiple deaths in case of fires.
Police in Thailand said a pub in the eastern province of Chonburi was presenting live music without a license when a fire broke out in early August, trapping many people inside because exits were blocked or locked.
The toll from that fire has climbed to 23 dead, 13 of them on the night of the blaze and 10 in the month since then. Many had serious burns over most of their bodies. At least five other victims are believed to still be on ventilators.