HAWAII, U.S. - Three people were found dead and 12 others injured on Friday after a massive fire broke out at a Honolulu high-rise, as hundreds of people fled the residential complex as dark smoke billowed from the upper floors of the building.
Fire Chief Manuel Neves said in a statement that residents were found dead on the 26th floor, where the fire broke out around 2:15 p.m., revealing that the Marco Polo apartment complex does not have fire sprinklers.
The Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said in a statement that the blaze spread to at least the 28th floor and several units, adding that the number of fatalities could change.
Firefighters were searching the damaged areas to make sure no additional people perished in the flames.
Jenkins added that paramedics treated several injured people and at least four people were sent to the hospital.
He said, at least 12 people needed medical help.
According to reports, the 36-floor building which is located near the famous tourist spot, Waikiki was built in 1971 and has 568 apartments and four commercial spaces.
He said, "Without a doubt if there were sprinklers in this apartment, the fire would be contained to the unit of origin.”
Officials said that four of the injured, including a firefighter, were hospitalized in a serious condition.
They added that 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.
Officials also stated that 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.
Reports quoted the security guard Leonard Rosa as saying that most of the evacuations went calmly and smoothly.
Commenting on the report, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city needs to look at passing a law requiring older buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers.
Caldwell added, “The biggest argument is the affordability. Residents have to pay. It's pretty expensive. But if it saves a life and it's your life, it's worth the cost."