22 Die in Fire at Lithium Battery Factory

Fire extinguishers failed to put out blaze at South Korea plant, officials say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 24, 2024 5:11 PM CDT
22 Die in Fire at Lithium Battery Factory
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, top fourth from left, arrives at the site of a fire at a lithium battery manufacturing factory in Hwaseong, South Korea, Monday, June 24, 2024.   (Ryu Hyung-seok/Yonhap via AP)

A fire likely sparked by exploding lithium batteries swept through a factory near South Korea's capital on Monday, killing 22 people, mostly Chinese migrant workers, and injuring eight, officials said. The fire began after batteries exploded while workers were examining and packaging them on the second floor of the factory in Hwaseong city, just south of Seoul, at around 10:30am, fire officials said, citing a witness. The dead included 18 Chinese, two South Koreans, and one Laotian, local fire official Kim Jin-young told a televised briefing. He said the nationality of one of the dead couldn't be immediately verified.

The fire started at one of the factory buildings owned by a battery manufacturer, Aricell. Kim said that authorities would investigate whether fire extinguishing systems were at the site and if they worked, the AP reports. Video showed the factory's second floor being engulfed by the blaze about 15 seconds after a small amount of white smoke was seen billowing from a battery, senior fire official Jo Seon-ho told a briefing later Monday.

Jo, citing the footage, said workers at the site mobilized fire extinguishers but failed to put out the blaze. They later rushed to an area where there was no exit before they likely inhaled toxic smoke and lost consciousness, he said. The dead foreign workers were daily laborers so were not likely familiar with the building's internal structure, he added. President Yoon Suk Yeol, wearing a safety helmet and a mask, visited the site with other officials. He expressed condolences and ordered officials to put in place measures to effectively deal with battery-related fires, according to Yoon's office.

(More South Korea stories.)

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