HANOI (Reuters) – The death toll from a fire at a karaoke bar in southern Vietnam on Wednesday had risen to 23, a police official said, warning that the number of victims could rise further as search efforts continued at the site of the blaze.
The fire broke out on Tuesday night at the bar in Binh Duong province, an industrial hub near Ho Chi Minh City, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.
“The fire started on the second floor of the bar and quickly spread to the third floor, which was full of flammable material,” the statement said.
There were around 60 people in the bar when the fire started, it said.
“We are concerned that the death toll could increase further,” said a police official, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.
The bar has 30 rooms, two of which had not yet been accessed by firefighters, the official said.
“When the fire broke out, I was so panicked and ran for safety and can’t remember how it happened,” a witness, who identified herself only as Quynh, was quoted as saying in the official Vietnam News Agency.
Several victims were found dead in a restroom in the three-storey building, it said.
State media reported earlier that dozens of people had been rescued, although many of them were injured.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday ordered the Ministry of Public Security and provincial authorities to investigate the cause of the fire.
Chinh also ordered cities and provinces across the country to ensure safety standards at facilities prone to fire, including at karaoke bars.
Karaoke is popular in Vietnam, but lax safety standards at venues have raised concerns. Three firefighters were killed while fighting a blaze at another karaoke bar in Hanoi last month.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Ed Davies)