Thousands of fish feared dead following fire


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A shop owner from Seattle in the US fears tens of thousands of fish will have died following a fire above his store on Christmas Eve.

The 100-year-old building on South King Street in the Chinatown district, houses eight businesses — one of them an aquatic shop owned by Djin Kwie Liem, which has been trading there since 1979.

But a fire broke out in the vacant upper part of the building at around 4pm on Christmas Eve, causing extensive damage. Dozens of fire trucks attended the scene and people living in surrounding homes had to be evacuated.

Liem was only allowed back into his ground floor shop shop briefly on Thursday to pick up a few personal belongings, cash and receipts.

There's no power to the building following the fire, so the shop's tanks are without heat, oxygen and filtration. Liem had to use a flashlight to see what he was doing. He told The Seattle Times that he couldn't bear to look into any of the tanks to see the fate of the thousands of fish.

Liem had only received a shipment of about 5,000 goldfish the day before the fire, and an additional 4,000 a fortnight earlier, ready for the Chinese New Year. The Chinese consider goldfish good luck, so this is a particularly busy time for him.

He estimates that 20,000 fish may have been lost, including tropical specialities such as Fighters and Corydoras along with fancy goldfish and Koi.

Liem knows there's little hope for the tropicals, but hopes that some of the coldwater fish could still make it.

Fire officials say the upper areas of the building are so damaged that the cause of the blaze may never be known and business owners have been told it could be weeks before they find out if they can ever reopen.

The same building was the site of the Wah Mee massacre in 1983 — the deadliest mass murder in Washington State history — when 14 people were gunned down by three men in the downstairs Wah Mee gambling club. Thirteen died, but the survivor was able to testify against the gunmen.

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