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Patient 'upset at illness' confesses to starting deadly fire

By Paavan Mathema, for CNN
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
  • 67-year-old cancer patient confesses to starting fire at the hospital
  • The fire kills at least 12 people and injures 60 others
  • Firefighters evacuate 115, mostly bed-ridden, patients

(CNN) -- A 67-year-old cancer patient was arrested Wednesday in connection with a fire that ripped through a hospital in Taiwan killing at least 12 people and injuring 60 others.

Lin Chi-hsiung, who was found hiding in a storage facility at the hospital, confessed to starting the fire a day earlier because he was upset over his illness, according to Tseng Chao-kai, head prosecutor for the Tainan District Prosecutor's Office.

Lin is a colon cancer patient who has been hospitalized in the facility since late 2010, Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

"CCTV recordings back Lin's confession," Tseng told CNN. "He was detained late Tuesday after doctors confirmed he was mentally stable."

The fire, which coincided with Taiwan's "Day for the Elderly," broke out at a government-run hospital for the elderly in rural Tainan in the south of the island.

The injured were rushed to 13 hospitals nearby. As of Wednesday, only two have been released.

The blaze began in a storage room on the second floor of the five-story building. A Department of Health spokesperson told CNN that the firefighters had to evacuate 115 mostly bed-ridden patients.

Footage from local network ETTV showed firefighters moving patients in bed sheets and wheelchairs, while nurses were seen trying to resuscitate some victims of the inferno on the hospital's lawn.

Although the high number of casualties has been attributed to the condition of the patients, some media reports suggest the hospital was short-staffed at the time. CNA reported that only six employees were on duty when the fire broke out.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has said it will grant $1,700 to the families of the dead and $680 to the injured.

It has also ordered all public medical institutions, nursery homes and mental rehabilitation centers across Taiwan to inspect the fire safety of their facilities within three days.

Journalist Vivian Kam contributed to this report.

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