Major fire engulfs homes in downtown Hanoi

A fire engulfs a residential structure near a hospital in Hanoi, on Sept 17, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

HANOI (AFP) - Firefighters late Monday (Sept 17) battled a major blaze in central Hanoi that engulfed several homes near a children's hospital and sent panicked residents running for safety.

There were no deaths or injuries reported hours after the fire started in a crowded part of the Vietnamese capital, but a huge plume of smoke could be seen from several kilometres away.

Patients were wheeled out of a nearby children's hospital - which was not on fire - as much of the area's electricity was shut off, according to AFP reporters at the scene.

"I have never seen such a big fire, it must have been more than 100m high I think," resident Dinh Thi Chung told AFP.

Another resident wept nearby as she watched firefighters extinguish the blaze.

"We lost everything.... there were 20 households in the area, all on fire," the woman said.

A police officer said they were not yet able to confirm any casualties as they battled the inferno.

Big blazes are relatively common in Vietnam, where fire prevention and firefighting services remain underdeveloped.

Thirteen people were killed in an apartment complex fire in Ho Chi Minh City in March after the high-rise was engulfed in flames overnight, trapping many inside their apartments.

That was Vietnam's deadliest fire since 2016 when a blaze in a karaoke bar in Hanoi left 13 people dead, mostly government workers who died in the club's soundproof chambers.

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