56 killed in Vietnam apartment fire

Hanoi, Sep 13: Fifty-six people died in a fire at an apartment block in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, police said Wednesday, with witnesses reporting screams from inside and a small boy thrown from the building.
Vietnam's deadliest fire in 20 years started just before midnight on Tuesday (1700 GMT) in the parking floor of the 10-storey building, an area packed with motorbikes, witnesses said.
"56 people have been killed and 37 people injured," Hanoi police department said in a statement.
At least three children were among the dead, state media reported.
The owner of the apartment block has been arrested on suspicion of violating fire prevention regulations, Hanoi police said.
A woman who lives near the block, who gave her name only as Hoa, said: "I heard a lot of shouts for help. We could not help them much."
"The apartment is so closed with no escape route, impossible for the victims to get out," she told AFP at the site.
Photos by AFP photographers on the scene showed flames and smoke billowing from barred balconies.
The blaze was out by Wednesday morning but rescuers still struggled for hours to get into the building, which is down a narrow alley in a residential area of southwest Hanoi.
The complex's small balconies were surrounded by iron bars, with the apartment block having only a single exit and no emergency ladder on the outside.
Pictures showed a line of charred motorbikes on the ground floor, where the fire began.
Around 150 people lived in the complex, authorities said.
Another witness, Huong, said a small child was thrown from an apartment to escape the flames.
"The smoke was everywhere. There was a little boy thrown from a high floor, I don't know whether he survived or not although people used a mattress to catch him," she said. AFP