Hanoi office tower fire spreads smoke around city

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2011 5:42 PM
Hanoi office tower fire spreads smoke around city

An office tower being built by Vietnam's state power company caught fire Thursday, engulfing part of downtown Hanoi in black smoke. Official media said 30 workers were rescued, but it was not immediately clear whether others remained trapped inside.

Several workers waved their shirts from an upper-floor balcony to call for help after smoke began to engulf the building. Others used cellphones and flashlights to summon help.

Police sealed off the building and declined to comment. The fire appeared to be out by mid-evening, several hours after it started, but fire engines and ambulances still crowded the area.

The unoccupied tower is one of two being built for Vietnam Electricity's Center for Telecommunications and Information Management. Vietnam Electricity, known as EVN, has a monopoly in power distribution in Vietnam.

The official Vietnam News Agency said 30 workers were rescued, including 16 who were hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

Witnesses said they saw fire in the basement of the 33-story building. The Thanh Nien newspaper quoted Nguyen Huy Hoc, a worker who escaped the blaze, as saying sparks from welding in the basement ignited nearby material in the air-conditioning system.