This picture taken and released on Sep 7, 2022 by the Vietnam News Agency shows the burnt-down exteriors of An Phu Karaoke bar in Binh Duong province, north of Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: AFP/STR/Vietnam News Agency)
HANOI: Vietnamese authorities have arrested the owner of a karaoke bar where a fire killed 32 people earlier this month, police said Saturday (Sep 17).
The blaze ripped through a three-storey entertainment venue north of commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City nine days ago.
Seventeen people were injured, with many suffering broken bones after the flames forced them to jump from the roof, police said.
Binh Duong provincial police on Saturday confirmed in a statement that bar owner Le Anh Xuan, 42, was arrested a day earlier and faces criminal charges related to breaching fire prevention regulations.
He will be held in custody for four months while the investigation continues, police added.
While 15 of the injured have been released from hospital, two of the most seriously hurt are still receiving medical treatment.
The bodies of the 32 people killed have been handed over to their families.
Firefighters initially struggled to enter the building because of the fire’s intensity and had to knock down part of a wall to get inside.
Sixty people were inside the 30-room bar when the fire erupted.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, survivors described their harrowing escape from the blaze.
“We thought we would die,” karaoke parlour worker Do Thanh Tu told state media.
Authorities initially blamed an electrical short circuit for the blaze but said the bar had met all fire safety standards in checks over the past three years.
Police partly blamed drunken singers.
“They were drunk. So when the staff at the karaoke bar informed them about the fire … people in some karaoke rooms didn’t listen,” provincial police chief Trinh Ngoc Quyen said during a press conference.
In what was previously Vietnam’s deadliest fire, 13 people died in a 2018 blaze in an apartment complex in Ho Chi Minh City.
In 2016, a fire at a karaoke facility in the capital Hanoi left 13 people dead, prompting a country-wide assessment of fire prevention measures at bars and clubs.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has ordered a further inspection of high-risk venues, especially karaoke bars.
Last month, three firefighters died after trying to extinguish a fire at another karaoke bar in Hanoi.
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