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More Than 100 Killed in Vietnam Fire


The death toll in an office building fire in Vietnam has reached more than 100 people. Only eight of the badly burned bodies recovered have been identified.

Rescue workers began the gruesome task Wednesday of sifting through the charred remains of the Saigon International Trade Center. Officially, they were looking for people still trapped in the building. But privately, officials say there is little hope anyone trapped inside could have survived the inferno.

The six-story building went up in flames Tuesday afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City's main business district. At least 500 people typically work and shop in the center, which housed several foreign companies, jewelry shops and a disco.

In addition to dozens of Vietnamese citizens, two British citizens and one American who worked in the building have been confirmed dead. At least 19 people from American International Assurance Company are thought to have died in the fire.

The cause of the fire has not been identified, though early reports say it may have been an electrical short in a disco on the second floor. The Blue nightclub was one of the most popular spots in town, but was empty when the fire started. Still, the city government has ordered all bars and nightclubs in town closed for three days.

As the rescue effort began, questions arose on why so many people were trapped. It took firefighters four hours to find ladders long enough to reach upper windows. Dozens of frantic office workers jumped to escape the flames while would-be rescuers looked on. Witnesses also said that the building, one of Ho Chi Minh City's first international business centers, regularly padlocked doors to staircases as a security measure.

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