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South Korea factory fire: 18 Chinese nationals among 22 people killed

Eighteen Chinese nationals were among 22 people killed in a fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea, South Korea announced on Thursday. firefighters Monday, specifying that one person remained missing.

“Twenty foreigners are among the dead, including 18 Chinese, a Laotian and a person of unknown nationality,” Kim Jin-young, a member of the fire brigade at the scene, told the press, adding that the Identification of the victims was difficult due to their burns.

More than 100 people were working in the factory when workers heard a series of explosions on the second floor, where lithium batteries are inspected and packaged, explained the same source.

The fire occurred in Hwaseong, south of Seoul, in a factory owned by South Korean manufacturer Aricell, specializing in batteries.

After successfully controlling the gigantic blaze, firefighters entered the building to extract the bodies. “Most of the bodies are seriously burned and it will take time to identify them,” said Kim Jin-young.

South Korean firefighters are still searching of a person still missing, he added.

Preliminary findings indicate that the fire spread within seconds, with toxic fumes immediately overwhelming the workers, said Cho Sun-ho, head of the Gyeonggi Province Fire Department.

“White smoke began to escape from a room (where the batteries are located) and it only took 15 seconds” for the disaster to spread to the entire space due to the sudden explosion , he explained. As it was a lithium fire, the workers' efforts to extinguish it appear to have been in vain.

“It is assumed that the victims inhaled shortly time of toxic fumes which quickly axphyxiated them, causing them to lose consciousness”, he added.

South Korea factory fire: 18 Chinese nationals among 22 people killed

Rescue workers evacuate the body of a victim of the deadly fire at a lithium battery factory in Hwaseong, South Korea, on June 24, 2024 © AFP – ANTHONY WALLACE

Dozens of fire trucks were lined up outside the factory, an AFP journalist saw, as rescue workers carried out the bodies, covered in blue blankets, using stretchers.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the disaster site on Monday night, and walked around the charred building wearing a safety helmet and mask before greeting firefighters.

It appears that “ignition material was positioned in front of the fire exit, which prevented workers from escaping and led to many deaths,” Yoon said.

The president ordered authorities to monitor similar factories that use chemicals and “take measures to prevent such accidents from happening again.”

– Highly flammable –

Highly flammable, approximately 35,000 lithium batteries are believed to be stored on the second floor of the factory where the fire broke out.

South Korea factory fire: 18 Chinese nationals among 22 people killed

Fire trucks in front of a battery factory destroyed by fire, in Hwaseong, South Korea, June 24, 2024 © AFP – ANTHONY WALLACE

“It was difficult to enter the building because we feared that more explosions would occur,” said Mr. Kim, adding that firefighters fought the flames with “dry sand”.

Lithium fires are very difficult to fight with conventional means.

Lithium batteries are used in everything from laptops to electric vehicles.

Images broadcast by Yonhap showed plumes of gray smoke rising above the building of the factory ravaged by flames.

Local authorities have warned residents of Hwaseong Town about the smoke, advising them not to leave their homes.

“There is a lot of smoke due to fires in a factory Please pay attention to safety, in particular by refraining from going out”, indicates an alert message sent by SMS.

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South Korea factory fire: 18 Chinese nationals among 22 people killed

At the scene of the deadly fire at a battery factory in Hwaseong, South Korea, June 24, 2024 © AFP – ANTHONY WALLACE

South Korea is a major producer of batteries, especially those used in electric vehicles.

This fire is one of the worst disasters industrial losses the country has seen in years.

In 1989, an accident at a chemical factory in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, killed 16 dead and 17 injured. In 2020, thirty-eight people died in a warehouse fire in Icheon, south of Seoul.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116