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Fire kills, spreads inside Hawaii high-rise Marco Polo apartment building in Honolulu

15 July 2017 4:41 AM
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Fire kills, spreads inside Hawaii high-rise Marco Polo apartment building in Honolulu

Blaze Breaks Out at Honolulu High-Rise0:11

AT least three people died in a fire that broke out on the 26th floor of a Honolulu high-rise and hundreds fled as smoke billowed from the upper floors of the giant apartment complex.

The blaze at the Marco Polo apartments started on the 26th floor and spread to at least the 28th floor and several units, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Captain David Jenkins.

The three dead were found on the 26th floor, Fire Chief Manuel Neves said. Firefighters say there were reports of people trapped in their units in the burning building and some residents were unaccounted for.

The high-rise near the tourist mecca Waikiki has 568 apartments and four commercial spaces. It was built in 1971. Chief Neves says that without a doubt if there had been sprinklers where the three victims died, the fire would not have spread past the unit where it started.

Paramedics treated several injured people and at least four people were sent to the hospital. At least 16 people needed medical help, Jenkins said. He says about 100 firefighters are battling the blaze at the 36-storey building.

“We could see smoke billowing out already and the ground was scorched outside the stairwell,” said Patrick Williamson, who lives on the 32nd floor with his two sons, ages 10 and 12. They evacuated when they smelled smoke. “I feel worried, concerned and a little angry,” he said. “For the fire to get this out of control is a little suspicious. Either the fire department was late in response or there was something going on in that unit. Either way one wonders what happened and I feel a little bit less secure living in the building.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell confirmed the three deaths in a news conference, and that the location of where the three people were killed inside was not equipped with sprinklers. Leonard Rosa, a security officer in the building, said it will be “hours” before the fire is under control, CNN reports.

Resident Joel Horiguchi told CNN: “I looked out my window and noticed black smoke,” Horiguchi said. “I then opened my window to find the fire was a unit above us, just across. I also heard a neighbour above screaming for help.”

Local firefighters and police were going door-to-door in the building to find more residents.

Daniel Hildebrandt, a tour guide who saw the fire told CNN: “It was smoke at first and it got worse and worse ... there were flames coming out of the window and people that seem to be trapped on their balcony,” he said.

Troy Yasuda, who lives in a building across the street, was giving water to people who evacuated. “They were choking from the smoke,” he said, adding that people told him they evacuated through dark stairwells.

Police were yelling through megaphones for people still inside to come down, Yasuda said. He watched as people were carried out.

“It’s been an orderly evacuation,” said security guard Leonard Rosa, who was answering phones from the front lobby of the 31-storey building near Waikiki. Police and firefighters were going door-to-door, he said.

Firefighters were checking on reports that there were people trapped in their units, Jenkins said.

Fourth-floor resident Aaron Dengler and his wife were helping their elderly neighbour get to an aid station the American Red Cross set up at a nearby park to the building on Kapiolani Boulevard, Honolulu.

About two hours after the fire started it looked like flames were getting bigger and it looked like the blaze was reaching the 28th floor, Dengler said. “People are getting kind of nervous now,” he said. “It’s worrisome.” One resident who declined to give his name said he made it to safety after climbing the stairs from the 29th floor. The man said there was so much smoke, he could hardly see.


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