TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Police in Taiwan said a nursing home resident confessed to an early morning fire that ripped through the facility Tuesday, killing 12 people and injuring 60, many of them too weak to get out of their beds to escape.
Police did not identify the suspect, but Taiwanese television stations reported that he set the 3 a.m. fire because he was unhappy about his own protracted illness. Citing police officers they did not name, the reports also said the man was found naked, hiding in a storage facility at the Hsinying hospital, after burning his own clothes.
The nursing home is on the second floor of the hospital in the southern city of Tainan. Hospital security video broadcast on TV showed nurses working frantically to save patients, wheeling their beds into nearby corridors and performing CPR on stricken victims outside the hospital.
Hospital official Tsai Ming-shih said the victims died of smoke inhalation, and most of them were bedridden and too frail to run for their lives.
Tsai said the fire was extinguished about 40 minutes after it broke out and that rescuers safely evacuated more than 100 patients. Police initially said 70 people were hurt, but later lowered the number to 60.
Prosecutor Tseng Chao-kai said police were questioning the suspect. The government-owned Central News Agency said the suspect confessed to setting the fire, but Tseng would not confirm that.
Nursing homes are a relatively new phenomenon in Taiwan, where Confucian values dictate that family members care for elderly relatives themselves, rather than consigning them to institutions for the aged.
Tuesday was Taiwan’s government-recognized “Day for the Elderly,” when officials hand out packets of money – in some cases amounting to as much as Taiwan dollars 9,000 ($300) – to citizens 80 years of age and older.