Three people including a mother and her adult son were killed on Friday as fire raged through a high rise building in Hawaii, injuring 12, officials said.
The blaze at the 36-story Marco Polo condominium complex sent thick black smoke pouring over the city, a month to the day after a deadly high-rise fire in London.
Firefighters sprayed water onto the flames from nearby balconies and brought them under control at about 6.30 p.m. local time.
‘I looked down I could see the billowing smoke coming up,’ resident Ron Chiarottino said. ‘I heard three women’s voices screaming, pleading, moaning, ‘Please help me, please’ continuous screaming for five or ten minutes, and then I didn’t hear anymore.’
Karen Hastings was in her 31st floor Honolulu apartment when she smelled smoke. She ran out to her balcony, looked down, and saw flames five floors below her.
‘The fire just blew up and went flying right out the windows,’ the 71-year-old Hastings said of the first moments of the high-rise blaze that killed at least three people and injured 12.
‘And that was like a horror movie. Except it wasn’t a horror movie, it was for real.’
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper said a mother and her adult son were among the three people who perished on the 26th floor, where the fire started.
Fire Chief Manuel Neves told reporters that the building did not have a sprinkler system. ‘Without a doubt if there was sprinklers in this apartment, the fire would be contained to the unit of origin … the unit (where) the fire started,’ he said.
However, the building is not required to have fire sprinklers Neves admitted. The 36-floor building near the tourist mecca of Waikiki was built in 1971, before sprinklers were mandatory in high-rises. It has over 500 units.
In London, at least 80 people were killed when a fire gutted the 24-story Grenfell Tower block on June 14. That building was also built in the 1970s and did not have a sprinkler system.
More than 100 firefighters tackled the fire and officers were conducting a room-by-room search, a task that could take several hours, he added.
A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion while battling the fire along with four others who were taken to hospital in serious condition.
Late into the night as embers smoldered, firefighters were searching the damaged areas to make sure no additional people perished.
Hastings said the fearsome flames drove her and a neighbor to run down 14 floors until they found a safe stairwell to get some air.
‘We actually saw a person laying on a ledge and I don’t know whether he made it not,’ Hastings said.
The building is vast and wave-shaped, and has several sections. The blaze was mostly confined to a single section, and only the units immediately above it and to the side of it were evacuated, while many residents stayed inside.
The blaze was still burning some four hours after it broke out as the sun set, but it was down to mostly embers by then, official said.