At least three people died Friday in a fire in a high-rise apartment building in Honolulu and authorities fear some residents may be trapped in surrounding units, fire officials said.
Kirk Caldwell, the Honolulu mayor, said the building–which was built in 1971– did not have a sprinkler system.
More than 100 firefighters responded to the multiple-alarm fire at the Marco Polo apartments that started on the 26th floor. The fire spread to at least the 27th floor and several units, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins.
Jenkins says the number of fatalities could change. He says at least 12 people have needed medical help.
Troy Yasuda, who lives in a building across the street, was giving water to people who evacuated. “They were choking from the smoke,” he said, adding that people told him they evacuated through dark stairwells.
Police were yelling through megaphones for people still inside to come down, Yasuda said. He watched as people were carried out.
“It’s been an orderly evacuation,” said security guard Leonard Rosa, who was answering phones from the front lobby of the 31-story building near Waikiki. Police and firefighters were going door-to-door, he said.
Firefighters were checking on reports that there were people trapped in their units, Jenkins said.
“Paramedics are expediting emergency treatment with a triage location inside the building,” Shayne Enright told The Honolulu Star Advertiser. The paper described the scene: “Flames were lapping out from the building and glass from the windows and window frames rained down on the ground. Heavy black smoke was visible from miles away.”
Fourth-floor resident Aaron Dengler and his wife were helping their elderly neighbor get to an aid station the American Red Cross set up at a nearby park. “It doesn’t help to just stand and watch,” he said.
About two hours after the fire started it looked like flames were getting bigger and it looked like the blaze was reaching the 28th floor, Dengler said. “People are getting kind of nervous now,” he said. “It’s worrisome.”
One resident who declined to give his name said he made it to safety after climbing the stairs from the 29th floor. The man said there was so much smoke, he could hardly see.
The 36-story building just outside the tourist mecca of Waikiki has 568 apartment units.
The Associated Press contributed to this report