Man arrested over starting hospital fire that killed 12

Fire rescue teams tend to patients for smoke inhalation after an early morning fire swept through the Hsinying Hospital's nursing ward. Photo / AP
Fire rescue teams tend to patients for smoke inhalation after an early morning fire swept through the Hsinying Hospital's nursing ward. Photo / AP

An elderly man has been arrested and detained in Taiwan on suspicion of starting a fire at a hospital that killed 12 people and injured 60.

The blaze erupted before dawn on Tuesday local time at Beimen nursing facility in southern Tainan city, whose 115 patients included people in their 90s, with several left on their own to escape dense smoke that filled the building.

The 67-year-old man, surnamed Lin and also a patient at the hospital, said he lit tissue papers and threw them into a storage room full of clothes, said prosecutor Tseng Chao-kai today.

Lin said he was feeling upset because he had been suffering from serious illness, the prosecutor said, adding that an initial evaluation found that he did not appear to be mentally ill.

Prosector Tseng said Lin was located by the police several hours after the fire in an empty house near the hospital with a lighter in his pocket and was later arrested after questioning.

Tseng said the man, considered a flight risk, apparently tried to destroy evidence and would face murder and arson charges if his statement was proved to be true.

The China Times newspaper said Lin was suffering from colon and bladder cancer.

Closed-circuit TV footage taken moments after the blaze broke out showed hospital staff scrambling to put out the fire, while elderly patients struggled to escape in their wheelchairs.

Fire officials have said that the blaze possibly started in a storage room on the second floor of the five-floor building mainly housing bed-ridden seniors.

The cause of all the deaths was smoke inhalation. The injured were rushed to a dozen hospitals for treatment, officials said.

-AFP

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