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Sprinkler failure likely cause of Taiwan inferno

SPRINKLER FAILURE has emerged as the most likely cause of a 42 hour blaze in a high rise Taiwanese office development last weekend.

Three 26 storey towers on the Eastern Science Park in Hsichih, near Taipei, were gutted by the blaze, which is estimated to have caused £40M of damage.

The fire is believed to have broken out in an incense store on the third floor of one of the towers at 4am on Saturday, local time.

Firefighters thought they had extinguished the fire by late afternoon, but it broke out again, and by Saturday evening the upper levels of all three towers were ablaze.

Intense heat radiating from the first tower is the most likely reason that the other two caught fire. But by Monday embarrassed firefighters were blaming malfunctioning sprinklers and locked security doors for their failure to stop the fire spreading.

A government spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that the complex, which was built by the Taiwanese Tuntex Group in 1996, had recently failed two separate fire inspections.

These revealed missing extinguishers and malfunctioning and obstructed sprinklers. The building's owners were supposed to confirm improvements and compliance by May 6, but the penalties for non-compliance are limited to a maximum £1,000 fine.

Local opposition politicians are quoted in the Taiwanese press as claiming that more than 10,000 properties on the island have failed fire inspections recently, without any serious attempt by the local fire departments to enforce compliance.

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