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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Feb. 7)

All Headlines 07:06 February 07, 2017

Fires at high-rises

A fire at a shopping mall in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, killed four people and injured more than 40 Saturday. The fire was put out within an hour, but claimed casualties because toxic fumes spread quickly.

Police suspect sparks from a welding torch may have started the fire at an indoor amusement park for kids on the third floor of a four-story commercial building, given that plenty of combustible materials were scattered there. Construction workers were demolishing the site when the fire broke out at 11 a.m.

The fire could have been much more disastrous if it had spread to neighboring high-rise buildings at the Metapolis residential and commercial complex built in 2010. The complex consists of two 66-story buildings, one 60-story tower, another with 55 stories and a four-story commercial building. More than 1,200 apartment units are inhabited.

The fire alarm and water sprinklers allegedly didn't work right after the fire erupted, and police discovered that the complex's management office put them on standstill. Some residents reportedly claimed they only heard the alarm 20 minutes after the fire started.

We are at a loss for words over the repeated blazes caused by welding torches despite the government's reinforcement of safety regulations. In 2014, the government made it obligatory to keep watchers at hand until welding work is finished, but it's doubtful if this regulation is upheld at worksites.

The latest fire should be a wakeup call in reassuring fire safety in high-rise buildings. There are more than 2,500 buildings, including residential apartments, with 30 stories or more across the country, 85 of which exceed 50 floors.

Unsurprisingly, fires in high-rise buildings are not easy to contain. It's best to prevent fires through thorough safety check-ups because failing to address it could be catastrophic. This is why the government should redouble efforts to inspect fire-prevention equipment in tall buildings across the board and correct inadequate fire-related regulations.

It is particularly essential to oblige owners of high-rise buildings to install automatic systems intended to detect and contain fires. We must not make the error of mending the barn after the horse has bolted again.

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