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(LEAD) Rescue workers continue search of fire-hit warehouse after 38 killed

All News 10:26 April 30, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with PM's comments in last 4 paras)

ICHEON, South Korea, April 30 (Yonhap) -- Rescue workers on Thursday combed through the charred rubble of a fire-hit warehouse in Icheon, south of Seoul, in search of any missing victims in one of the country's deadliest blazes in years that has killed at least 38 people and injured 10 others.

The fire engulfed the four-story building under construction in Icheon, 50 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Wednesday afternoon and was put out five hours later.

Most of the 38 deceased were construction workers. Eight injured people were in serious condition as of Thursday morning, while two others sustained minor injuries.

Icheon is home to SK hynix Inc., the world's second-largest maker of DRAM chips, as well as a large number of warehouses and storage facilities for retailers.

Firefighters carry out a search and rescue operation at the site of a fire at a warehouse construction site in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, on April 29, 2020. (Yonhap)

Firefighters brought in excavators to search every corner of the warehouse as they struggle to confirm if any more victims remain in the wreckage. The search and rescue operation continued overnight and was still going on as of early Thursday.

"We are continuing our search operation in order to find if there are any more victims, unaccounted for or buried somewhere," a firefighter said. "Casualties from the fire stood at 48, including 38 people dead," the official said.

Starting Thursday morning, the police, firefighting authorities and the National Forensic Service were planning to launch a joint investigation to determine the exact cause of the fire.

Authorities were presuming that the fire started on the second underground floor during construction work involving urethane, a combustible chemical used for insulation work, and the installation of a freight elevator.

Authorities were also stepping up identification efforts, as the identity of nine of those killed remained unknown as of early Thursday with their bodies burned beyond recognition.

The city's emergency relief team plans to set up a joint memorial altar for the victims as soon as the identification process is complete, officials said.

A firefighting operation is under way at a warehouse construction site in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, on April 29, 2020. (Yonhap)

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun convened a meeting of government ministers Thursday to discuss the government's response to the disaster.

"We need to find a more practical solution in order to prevent the recurrence of a fire at a construction site," the prime minister noted.

He called for a thorough investigation into the cause of the recent fire and whether safety requirements were followed at the construction site.

"Above all, I pray that all the victims from the fire rest in peace and express my sincere condolences to their families," Chung said, vowing government support for the victims.


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