TAIPEI: A fire that erupted early Tuesday morning in a factory of Lian Hwa Foods Corp., a major Taiwanese food processor, has left at least seven people dead and three others in critical condition.

The fire broke out at around 6 am, trapping 22 of the food processor’s employees in the building before a Changhua County Fire Bureau rescue team arrived at the scene.

County Fire Bureau chief Shih Shun-jen told CNA that the 22 trapped employees were pulled out of the building by around 10.10am but 10 of them did not have any vital signs when they were evacuated.

The 10 people who did not have any signs of life when found were among 15 employees who hid in the factory’s refrigerated warehouse to protect themselves from the fire, Shih said.

The seven other trapped employees were found on other floors.

Shih said all 22 of the employees were rushed to six different hospitals, including Changhua Hospital and Yuan-Rung Hospital, for emergency treatment.

The fire was extinguished at around 9.12 am, according to the fire bureau, which was investigating the cause of the fire but did not offer any preliminary conclusions.

Lian-Hwa Foods said it suspected that the fire began when one or more of its machines caught fire, but cautioned that the investigation was still ongoing.

Shares of Lian-Hwa Foods, known for Viva brand of nuts, Koloko pea crackers, and Moto-Moto Yama seaweed, had fallen 2.87 per cent to NT$87.90 (US$2.87) on the local main board as of 1.17pm, according to CNA. - Bernama