At least 3 dead in Honolulu high-rise fire; building has no sprinklers, officials say

The fire began on the 26th floor of the 31-story Marco Polo apartments.

— -- At least three people died and approximately another 12 were injured Friday in a massive four-alarm fire that swept through a Honolulu high-rise apartment building that lacks a sprinkler system, fire department officials said.

At 6:47 p.m. local time, Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell tweeted, "Fire at Marco Polo Building in Waikiki is officially 'under control.' Mahalo to all first responders." Firefighters responded to the blaze around 2:15 p.m. local time (8:15 p.m. ET).

The fire began on the 26th floor -- where the victims were found -- and spread to at least the 28th floor of the 31-story Marco Polo building, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said.

Jenkins said in a statement that "personnel discovered and confirmed three fatalities during search operations. Approximately 12 occupants received medical attention by Emergency Medical Services personnel. Four people, including one fire fighter, were transported in serious condition to nearby hospitals." Caldwell had erroneously said that 16 people had been injured.

Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves says that without a doubt if there had been sprinklers, the fire would not have spread past the unit where it started.

About 100 firefighters and more than 20 fire units were dispatched to the scene.

Hundreds of residents ran from the building as smoke billowed from the 568-unit building, which was built in 1971. Firefighters say there were reports of people trapped in their units in the burning building.

Officials said an unknown number of the building's residents sheltered themselves in areas of the building not near flames. Those near the flames were evacuated. Videos posted to social media showed residents on balconies seeking help.

The building is home to many senior citizens and people of varying physical capabilities, officials said.

"We could see smoke billowing out already and the ground was scorched outside the stairwell," 32nd floor resident Patrick Williamson told The Associated Press, adding he and his sons, ages 10 and 12, evacuated when they smelled smoke. "I feel worried, concerned and a little angry," he said. "For the fire to get this out of control is a little suspicious. Either the fire department was late in response or there was something going on in that unit. Either way one wonders what happened and I feel a little bit less secure living in the building."

Debris could be seen falling from the building, according to ABC affiliate KITV.

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell tweeted that he had traveled to the scene. "On site at the Marco Polo Building fire in Waikiki," he wrote at 5:53 p.m. local time. "Mahalo to the Honolulu Fire Department for their heroism."

ABC News' Benjamin Stein, Rex Sakamoto and Amanda Maile contributed to this report.