UPDATE - Acer hit by blaze at Taiwanese high-tech offices

A fire that started early Saturday morning and burned for 37 hours outside Taipei has caused extensive damage in an office...

A fire that started early Saturday morning and burned for 37 hours outside Taipei has caused extensive damage in an office complex packed with high-technology companies, including Taiwan's largest brand-name PC manufacturer, Acer. More than 200 high-tech companies were affected by the blaze, according to local reports.

The complex, called the Eastern Science Park, is in Hsichih, to the east of Taipei. Press reports estimate that the damage caused by the fire may total TW$6bn (£127.6m) or more. There were no injuries among the companies with offices in the affected buildings, but two firefighters were injured slightly while putting out the blaze, the reports said.

"The buildings are just charred remains," Lauren Swartz, an Acer spokeswoman, said in a phone interview this week. "It's a charred mess, there's broken glass everywhere and emergency vehicles are still parked outside."

Although Acer's corporate offices, including the company's sales and marketing operations, were unaffected by the fire, several of the company's subsidiaries were damaged, including AOpen, which designs and manufactures motherboards; HiTrust, an Internet security company; Servex Group, a network of IT product distributors and developers; Pivotal Communications, which develops voice software for routers; and Apacer Technology, which designs and manufactures memory modules.

On Monday, those Acer subsidiaries affected by the fire were working from temporary offices and other locations, Swartz said, adding that the company does not expect product shipments to be adversely affected by the blaze.

Acer initially estimated that fire damage totaled TW$670m. The blaze caused TW$440m in structural damage to the three affected buildings and TW$230m in damage to equipment and inventory contained within the burned-out offices, the statement said. Acer has fire insurance that will limit the company's losses to TW$130m, it said. By Monday morning, however, those loss estimates appeared to be exaggerated, Swartz said.

By late Monday, Acer released revised damage estimates showing losses that, while significant, were less than the company had originally feared. The final estimate for damage caused by the fire was put at TW$500m, with post-insurance losses estimated to be TW$70m.

The reduced damage estimates were attributed to a firewall that had prevented the fire from spreading too far, the statement said.

The fire first broke out at about 4am on Saturday in an unnamed design company on the third floor of Building A of the Eastern Science Park, and within a couple of hours firefighters believed it had been extinguished, according to a report released by the official government Central News Agency. On Saturday evening, the fire was found to have reignited on the building's sixteenth floor, and it eventually engulfed the top seven floors of the building before jumping to an adjacent high-rise, the report said.

High winds from tropical storm Cimaron, which passed to the east of Taiwan on Sunday, were said to have fanned the fire and exacerbated the damage. The shortage of ladders high enough to reach the upper floors was also a factor.

Taiwan Premier Chang Chun-hsiung has ordered a task force, headed by Minister-without-Portfolio Chen Chin-huan, to investigate the causes of the fire and to recommend measures to prevent a similar disaster in the future.

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