(ATTN: RECASTS headline and lead; ADDs details throughout)
GOHEUNG, South Korea, July 10 (Yonhap) -- Three were killed and 27 others injured, with nine of them in serious condition, in a hospital fire in the country's southwestern region, officials said Friday.
The fire broke out at a hospital in Goheung, 473 kilometers south of Seoul, at 3:34 a.m. It was extinguished at 6:01 a.m.
Two of the dead, both in their 70s, were each found on stairs on the second floor and third floor, and they seem to have inhaled smoke in the course of escaping, while the other one later died in hospital, fire officials said.
All the injured were being treated at nearby hospitals for smoke inhalation. Some of the critically injured were to be sent to a hospital in the nearby city of Gwangju, they added.
A witness said the fire broke out in a space on the first floor between the internal medicine and orthopedics departments,
Ma Jae-yhun, chief of South Jeolla Province fire service, said there were no signs of outside intrusion and the fire seems to have been caused by an electrical problem. The fire authorities said they will conduct further investigation into the case.
Whether fire prevention facilities have functioned properly will be examined as well, according to the authorities.
Fire doors were installed in the building, but they were presumed to not have worked, allowing the smoke to quickly fill up the building, which reportedly worsened the casualties.
At the time of the fire, a total of 86 people, including 69 of the registered patients and seven nurses, were inside the hospital.
Twenty of them escaped from the building through the first-floor door on their own, but the rest had to escape to the fifth floor, the rooftop and the emergency stairs, and they were later rescued by firefighters, according to fire authorities.
The hospital where the fire occurred is a seven-story building with the capacity to accommodate some 100 patients.
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