Nine people died and another 16 were injured after a fire at a hospital in New Taipei City, local authorities said on Monday.
"We are pained by the accident and express our condolences to our Taiwan compatriots who lost their lives, to the bereaved families and to the injured," said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
The fire started on a seventh-floor ward at Taipei Hospital at around 4:30 am on Monday. There were 33 patients on the floor at the time, most aged over 50.
A nurse discovered the fire, and the four patients in the ward were safely evacuated, China Times reported.
Life-support machines for some patients had shut down, and they were unable to breathe during the evacuation procedure, while others suffered from smoke inhalation, media reported.
"When we arrived, there were flames shooting out of the ward. The rest of the wards on the floor were filled with heavy smoke," said a firefighter surnamed Chen.
Hospital staff members helped some patients escape, while others climbed up stairs to the top floor and were rescued by firefighters using cranes.
Some 208 firefighters were dispatched to the blaze, which was extinguished by 5:30 am.
The outside of the ward was blackened by the thick smoke.
New Taipei fire department official Hung Liang-chien told reporters that an initial probe showed that the fire was likely caused by a short circuit in an electrical device.
"We are clarifying whether it was the power cable of a patient's electric bed or a device brought in by relatives," he said.
Local Fire Chief Huang Te-ching earlier denied reports that the hospital's sprinkler system had malfunctioned.
"The sprinkler device was on, but there's some distance between it and the fire, so the fire couldn't be immediately extinguished," he told reporters.
He added that authorities were also examining why there was a nine-minute delay by the hospital in reporting the fire.