South Korea hospital fire kills at least 41 people

  • South Korea hospital fire kills at least 41 people

South Korea hospital fire kills at least 41 people

Officials said there are around 79 people injured, eight of those in a critical condition.

A huge fire tore through a South Korean hospital Friday, January 26, killing at least 41 people, the government said, in the country's worst blaze for 15 years.

The blaze happened at about 7:30 a.m. local time Friday (2230 GMT Thursday) at the Sejong Hospital in Miryang city, South Gyeongsang province.

"Many victims were from the first and second floors of the hospital. some died on their way to another hospital", he said.

The fire started from the first floor at Sejong Hospital in the southern city of Miryang.

More than half of the dead were elderly citizens aged 80 or older, and seven of them were in their 90s, according to firefighting authorities.

All the dead were in the hospital, Choi said.

Officials said they were still investigating the cause, although they suspect a possible short circuit in the emergency room's heating and cooling system could have started the blaze.

By Friday afternoon, police had cordoned off the burnt-out hospital, as forensic investigators combed the smoke-blackened building. "The fire was put out before spreading to the upper floors, although there were difficulties (for firefighters) to get inside the building due to heavy smoke and flames". A rescuer carried on his back an elderly patient covered in a blanket as they escaped the nursing ward.

Sejong Hospital offers regular medical services and has 193 beds including 98 beds for the elderly who needs nursing care with 35 medical staff, according to Yonhap news agency.

The presidential Blue House put the hospital fire death toll at 41. The blaze was extinguished in about three hours.

The government will also send additional doctors and medical staff to 14 hospitals where the injured are being treated.

Yonhap news agency says the death toll has reached 33, but the official couldn't immediately confirm the report.

Son Kyung-cheol, head of the foundation that operates the hospital, said in a televised briefing that the hospital did not have sprinklers as it was not required by law. Fire chief Choi Man-woo told reporters that the cause of the fire was not yet known. Officials blamed crew members' negligence, overloaded cargo, improper storage, unprofessional rescue work and corruption by the ship's owners.

President Moon Jae-in held an emergency meeting with top aides and urged "all necessary measures" to help survivors.