South Korean Building Fire Kills Dozens
Posted December 21, 2017 12:57 p.m. EST
A fire that spread through an eight-story building in the South Korean city of Jecheon left at least 29 people dead on Thursday, according to fire officials. Dozens more were injured by the blaze.
The majority of those killed had become trapped in a public sauna on the second floor of the building, local news outlets reported.
Videos from the city, 75 miles southeast of Seoul, show smoke billowing from the building as flames engulf several floors. Exhausted firefighters, their uniforms covered in ash, can be seen resting nearby.
The fire began just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, according to a statement from the National Fire Agency. An agency spokesman, reached by telephone, said that a total of 29 had been confirmed dead and that 29 others were being treated for injuries.
The blaze had been put out by Thursday night, but the death toll could rise, as authorities were still inspecting the building in the early hours of Friday morning.
A vehicle in the first-floor parking garage seemed to be the source of the blaze, the state-run news outlet Yonhap reported, citing local fire officials; the fire then appears to have spread through the building that housed a gym, restaurant and public sauna. Twenty people were rescued from the roof of the building, where they had fled when the fire began, Yonhap reported.
Pictures show people leaping from the windows of the building onto air mattresses that had been set up by firefighters.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea released a statement offering condolences to the families of those killed in the blaze and vowed that the victims would be promptly identified.
“We are saddened by the heavy toll of lives that were taken,” the statement read.
The prime minister’s office also tweeted that the local fire and police chiefs had been “working with necessary authorities to mobilize the proper equipment and manpower to rapidly fight the fire to save as many lives as possible.”