Residents said that the building, which was 13 stories tall, was home to many elderly, poor and disabled residents. It wasn't known how many of its 120 units were occupied.
Witnesses claimed that they heard a loud explosion on the lower floors of the building at 3:00 a.m. The blaze broke out in the basement, which was home to a closed movie theatre, abandoned restaurants, and karaoke bars.
Tsai-HsiuChin, 70, lived in the building for fifteen years. At 3:00 a.m. she heard "fire" and took the elevator down. She escaped with only her clothes.
"I didn’t bring anything. She said that she only cared about saving her life.
Lin Chie-ying, who lived across the street, said that she was awakened in her home by the sounds of fire trucks and ambulances. She said, "I believed that our home would also burn down."
The fire was extinguished by firefighters only after 7 a.m. It appeared that many of the upper floors were not directly damaged. The smoke was thick enough that it could have killed or injured several dozen people who lived above the fire.
Thursday saw dozens of bodies recovered by first responders who searched through the wreckage. Another 14 bodies were found dead at the hospital or within minutes.
Later that day, the smoke lingers and the sound from shattering glass can be heard throughout the neighborhood. To remove the glass remaining from the window frames, construction workers were lifted onto a crane and used a crowbar to do so. Then scaffolding was put up to stop the building becoming a danger.
There were scattered crowds of people in the street. Curious onlookers rode by on scooters to see the damage and stopped to take a look at it.
This apartment building, which dates back decades, is located in Yancheng, an older area of Kaohsiung with 2.8 million inhabitants.
Mayor Chen Chi Mai stated that Yancheng and their families were in great pain. He also apologized for his actions. "Here, I would like to convey my deepest sorrow and condolences to all those who were hurt and died, their families, and all residents."
Although it appears that the fire started on the ground floor, the exact location and cause of the fire are still unknown.
According to the United Daily News, a major newspaper that covers news, investigators are focusing their attention on the first floor tea shop where fire started. Police are also investigating a resident who was allegedly involved in a fight with his girlfriend on Wednesday. According to the newspaper, they had not yet ruled out arson.
It said that fire extinguishers were only installed on three floors last month because residents couldn't afford more.
64 people were killed in a 1995 fire in Taichung's nightclub, Taiwan's third largest city. It was the country's worst natural disaster.