3 dead in fire in Honolulu high-rise apartment building

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Firefighters on several balconies spray water upwards while trying to contain a fire at the Marco Polo apartment complex, Friday, July 14, 2107, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

HONOLULU (AP) — At least three people died in a fire that broke out on the 26th floor of a Honolulu high-rise Friday and hundreds fled as smoke billowed from the upper floors of the giant apartment complex.

The blaze at the Marco Polo apartments spread from the 26th floor to at least the 28th floor and hit several units, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins.

The three dead were found on the 26th floor, said Fire Chief Manuel Neves.

Firefighters say there were reports of people trapped in their units in the burning building and some residents were unaccounted for.

The high-rise near the tourist mecca Waikiki has 568 apartments and four commercial spaces. Paramedics treated several injured people and at least four people were sent to the hospital. At least 12 people needed medical help, Jenkins said.

“We could see smoke billowing out already and the ground was scorched outside the stairwell,” said Patrick Williamson, who lives on the 32nd floor with his two sons, ages 10 and 12. They evacuated when they smelled smoke.

“I feel worried, concerned and a little angry,” he said. “For the fire to get this out of control is a little suspicious. Either the fire department was late in response or there was something going on in that unit. Either way one wonders what happened and I feel a little bit less secure living in the building.”

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 36-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.

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.

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