Saigon apartment manager faces criminal charges for fatal blaze

Ho Chi Minh City police arrested Nguyen Quoc Tuan, 33, on Wednesday and recommended that he be charged with the criminal offense of seriously violating fire safety regulations at the Carina Plaza in District 8.

The deadly fire, which broke out on March 23, killed 13 residents.

It is alleged that Tuan knew that the fire detection system was broken, but made no effort to fix it, a mistake that proved very costly.

Last April, police also detained Nguyen Van Tung, 41, former director of the Hung Thanh Company, investor of the apartment building, on similar charges.

In December 2016, the investor appointed the Saigon Real Estate Service Company (SEJCO) to manage and operating the Carina Plaza.

Tuan was appointed manager of the building since then, but he failed to discharge his responsibilities properly, police said.

Investigation found the fire started at around 1:15 a.m. on March 23 from a scooter in the building"s basement parking lot, and spread for over 13 minutes without any warning being triggered.

Most residents were asleep at that time.

The fire alarms did not go off, the automatic sprinklers in the building failed to deploy and the emergency lighting did not turn on during the fire. All fire doors in the building had also been wedged open with bricks, allowing smoke to billow up to residential floors, causing the deaths of most of the 13 victims.

Police said the fire could have been prevented with a small fire extinguisher if there had been someone on guard duty at the time.

Carina Plaza, which has three 14-20 story buildings with more than 700 apartments as well as a shopping and entertainment center, opened to residents in 2012.

Between August 2012 and 2017, the complex was inspected by fire safety authorities 21 times and violations were found on three occasions. An inspection in late 2017 found no safety problems.

The fire, which also incinerated 13 cars and 150 motorbikes, was one of the deadliest to hit the city, second only to a blaze that killed 60 people at the six-storied International Trade Center in October 2002.

Inside the wreckage of Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon apartment manager faces criminal charges for fatal blaze
Inside the wreckage of Ho Chi Minh City"s charred Carina Plaza