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|Balconies installed with iron cages known as "tiger cages" are common in apartment buildings in Hanoi. – photo ktdt.vn|
Known as a “tiger cage” or “bird’s nest” they were installed by owners to give extra living space inside.
But these were thought of as a problem, blocking routes for firefighters in the event of a blaze, and dangerously hampering rescue attempts.
Despite many warning, people still continued to ignore advice and install the cages.
This was particularly common in old apartment blocks in places such as Thanh Cong of Ba Dinh District, Thanh Xuan Bac in Thanh Xuan District, Kim Lien of Dong Da District, and Bach Khoa of Hai Ba Trung District.
Cages could in some cases enlarge the living area by up to 12sq.m in urban areas.
Many residents said the cages not only deterred thieves, but also prevented children from falling.
Colonel Tran Van Vu, from Hanoi’s Fire Fighter Force told Kinh Te và Do Thi (Economy and Urban) Newspaper: “The residents in old and new apartment buildings and residential houses usually seek out measures to prevent thieves but not fire.
“They reinforce the windows and balconies with no clear standards. As a result, their only exit is the one staircase and front door.”
As a result, he added, they had inadvertently blocked a fire escape for their families.
In recent years, many fires happened in apartment buildings or houses with caged balconies costing the lives of several who may be alive today if the cages were not in place.
When a fire breaks out, the firefighters would have to cut the iron cages to gain access which is time-consuming and especially dangerous in emergencies.
Earlier this month, a fire happened in an apartment building in Thanh Xuan District.
The old building with narrow corridors and many obstacles caused difficulties to firefighters approaching while the apartment’s balcony was blocked by an iron cage.
The firefighters had to cut the cage to rescue 20 people inside. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
In another case, two people in a 4-storey house in Vong Street of Hai Ba Trung District were not so lucky.
They both died after being trapped inside as firefighters could not cut through the steel in time.
Despite these fatalities, the cages still exist, and in some cases, more have been erected.
Many said that it was necessary to have regulations asking house and apartment owners to remove the cages.
But it seemed to be a “mission impossible” - because, there would not be enough staff to inspect and remove thousands that exist city-wide
Dr. Ngo Van Xiem, a former principal of Fire Fighting University (Ministry of Public Security) offered a solution.
“It is difficult to ask people to remove the cages,” he said.
“But apartment owners could redesign the cages with small doors which would be used as an exit in case of fire.”