US & Canada

Hawaii fire: Flames rip through Honolulu tower block

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Media captionBlack smoke and flames were seen from the 26th floor of the high-rise flats

At least three people have been killed and more are feared dead in a fire in a block of high-rise flats in Honolulu, Hawaii, firefighters say.

Black smoke was seen billowing from the 26th floor of the 36th-storey condominium, a short distance from one of the US state's famous beaches.

Twelve people were hurt in the blaze, according to officials. Emergency services are searching for survivors.

Officials said the building did not have a sprinkler system.

The fire at the Marco Polo complex was first reported in a call to the fire department at 14:17 on Friday local time (00:17 GMT on Saturday) and was announced to be under control just before 19:00, though firefighters later responded to a "flare-up".

The blaze started on the 26th floor, where the three fatalities were discovered, and spread to the 28th.

Evacuees, including some of the injured, were taken to a nearby park.

One resident, Ron Chiaritino, said he had heard screams for help which went on for 10 minutes.

"I looked down; I could see the billowing smoke coming up and - this is really sad - I heard three women's voices screaming, pleading, moaning, 'Please help me, please,'" he said.

The Marco Polo, which has 586 units, is situated about a mile from the world-famous Waikiki beach. It was built in 1971, three years before sprinkler systems became mandatory.

City officials said that if the block had had sprinklers the fire would have been contained in the original unit.

The fire came exactly a month after the Grenfell Tower fire in London, in which at least 80 people died.

The absence of sprinklers is also thought to be a factor in the spread of that fire.

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