Ho Chi Minh City businesses have seen an upsurge in the sale of fire safety equipment in the past two weeks since a catastrophic blaze tore through a small apartment building in northern Vietnam.
The tragic fire in a nine-story mini-apartment building in Hanoi on September 12 killed 56 people and injured 37 others, stirring up concerns about fire safety in high-rises and prompting Vietnamese across the country to invest in their own fire protection equipment.
Fire protection design engineer Bui Van Trieu, a resident of Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City, said he has been receiving a steady stream of phone calls from friends and family over the past few weeks asking for his advice on gas masks, emergency rope ladders, fire extinguishers, and other firefighting equipment.
According to Trieu, many of the people who contacted him live in mini flats and rented rooms – the same type of accomodation affected by the recent fire in Hanoi.
“It is crucial that people buy products from reputable suppliers with quality control stamps to avoid counterfeits that could end up putting them in danger,” said Trieu.
Quang Truong, a resident of Nha Be District in Ho Chi Minh City, is one of the millions of Vietnamese who now fear that the fire protection system in their apartment building is not enough to keep them safe.
Though his building already has a rope ladder and fire extinguishers, Truong spent last weekend buying his own.
“You can’t be too careful,” he said.
Similarly, Pham Thu Huyen, a resident of Binh Thanh District, also purchased a rope ladder she can use to descend from her balcony in case of an emergency.
“I read a newspaper report that a family made a narrow escape from the third floor using a rope ladder, so I bought one,” she said.
Supplies fall short
On September 16, just days after the blaze in Hanoi, Nguyen Thai Binh, Calmette, and Huynh Tan Phat Streets in Ho Chi Minh City were filled with people hunting down fire safety supplies.
|Lua Viet Company staff check fire safety products before delivery. A representative of the company said orders have skyrocketed since the mini-apartment inferno tragedy in Hanoi. Photo: Quoc Viet / Tuoi Tre|
Among the most popular purchases were gas masks, emergency rope ladders, and fire extinguishers.
“I only have two five-meter-long rope ladders left and I’ve run out of 20-meter and longer rope ladders,” said Phuong, a fire protection equipment supplier on Calmette Street in District 1.
According to Phuong, the rising demand has led to manufacturers increasing their prices. As such, retail prices for fire protection equipment have risen, causing customers to accuse him and other retailers of price gouging.
Nguyen Linh, the owner of a fire prevention equipment store on Cong Hoa Street in Tan Binh District, said his phone has been ringing off the hook since September 13 and many of his products have waiting lists.
Gas masks, he said, currently take a week to deliver to customers while rope ladders will not be restocked until the end of September.
“There was barely anyone buying masks or rope ladders before the fire in Hanoi, but now demand is so high that many people are pre-ordering them,” said Linh.
Ho Chi Minh City-based Lua Viet Company Limited, a fire protection equipment provider, said it is facing product shortages.
The company still has enough gas masks and fire extinguishers to offer stable prices to customers, yet escape ladders currently have a two-week waiting list.
“The sudden increase in demand for fire safety tools has given rise to some scarcity,” said a Lua Viet representative.