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(2nd LD) Fire at Coupang warehouse rages for over a day, 1 firefighter trapped

National 16:51 June 18, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with statement from Coupang CEO at bottom)

ICHEON, South Korea, June 18 (Yonhap) -- A fire at a Coupang Inc. distribution center continued to burn Friday, more than a day after it broke out, with one firefighter trapped inside, officials said.

The fire began in the basement of the e-commerce giant's four-story building in Icheon, about 80 kilometers south of Seoul, around 5:20 a.m. Thursday. Authorities said it appeared to have been caused by a spark from a power outlet.

A 52-year-old firefighter who entered the basement Thursday morning to look for people left behind has yet to emerge from the building.

"We will resume our search as soon as it becomes possible to enter the building," a fire official said. "We don't know for now when the flames will die down."

The fire has spread from the basement to the entire building and begun to reveal its frame.

Firefighters are seen at the site of a fire at a Coupang distribution center in Icheon, some 80 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 18, 2021. (Yonhap)
Firefighters try to put out a fire at a Coupang distribution center in Icheon, some 80 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 18, 2021. (Yonhap)

Firefighters said they are using water cannons to put out the fire from outside instead of entering the building out of concern it could soon collapse. The second floor has already begun to buckle.

Six fire engines have been parked between the building and an adjacent distribution center belonging to a different company in case the flames leap across.

The Coupang building reportedly contains a large amount of flammable packing material, including papers, boxes, plastics and stickers.

It handles deliveries to all parts of the country and the fire will likely cause delays.

"We're trying to minimize any inconvenience to customers by distributing deliveries to other centers," a Coupang official said.

A safety inspection of the building is also under way.

"Some firefighters have said the sprinklers were activated, but it's such an old facility that it's possible not all of them worked," a fire official said. "We'll be able to find out the details through an inspection."

In a statement issued later in the day, Coupang's CEO Kang Han-seung said that he was "sorry for having caused concerns" over the warehouse fire. "We apologize to many people who have experienced disruptions due to the fire," he said while also expressing hope for the safe rescue of the trapped firefighter.

Kang also said Coupang will actively cooperate with authorities in the investigation of the fire.

Firefighters try to put out a fire at a Coupang distribution center in Icheon, some 80 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 17, 2021. (Yonhap)
A fire engulfs a Coupang distribution center in Icheon, some 80 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 17, 2021. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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