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(LEAD) President urges stepped up efforts to minimize damage from accidents

All Headlines 13:45 January 27, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with outcome of the president's visit to Miryang, more details and information throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in called Saturday for additional efforts to prevent unnecessary casualties and damage in accidents, one day after fire at a local hospital in Miryang left more than three dozen people dead.

"I feel sorrowful and heartbroken as such tragedies continue to occur despite pledges by the government to make our country safe," the president said during a surprise visit to the hospital in the city located 280 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The trip began with a visit to a joint funeral hall for 37 people killed in the tragic fire, according to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"I also feel ashamed before the people. I first wish to pray for those who passed away and offer my deep condolences to their bereaved families and the people of Miryang," Moon said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

The fire broke out early Friday at the hospital for elders. Initial reports have suggested the high death toll may have been caused by toxic gas, as many of the victims, who were also old patients, seem not to have been able to escape in time.

Moon praised firefighters and other rescue workers for doing all they could to save people, noting the lack of mandatory safety and fire prevention measures for places like the hospital for elders may have led to such a high death toll.

"It appears we must now take an interest in such issues, including fire prevention and safety management," he was quoted as saying.

Moon's trip started at 10:40 a.m. and lasted about one hour, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

President Moon Jae-in (L) pays his respect to those killed in a tragic fire at a hospital in Miryang, located 280 kilometers from Seoul, during his surprise visit to a funeral hall in the southeastern city on Jan. 27, 2018. (Yonhap)


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