(4th LD) At least 5 killed, 37 injured in expressway tunnel fire
(ATTN: UPDATES with President Yoon's instructions)
GWACHEON, South Korea, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- At least five people were killed and 37 others injured, three of them seriously, Thursday in a noise-barrier tunnel fire along an expressway in Gwacheon, just south of Seoul, fire authorities said.
The blaze was reported to have occurred at 1:49 p.m. inside the noise tunnel in Gwacheon along the Second Gyeongin Expressway that connects the western port city of Incheon to Seongnam City, the authorities said.
Initial findings showed the fire started after a bus and a truck collided. It quickly spread to the tunnel, causing massive clouds of flames and smoke.
Rescuers found five people dead inside vehicles, including those involved in the collision. Rescuers initially put the death toll at six, but later corrected it to five, saying one victim was counted twice.
Thirty-seven others sustained injuries, such as smoke inhalation, most of them slight, but three people sustained serious injuries, including burns.
President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed the government to thoroughly search the site of the accident to ensure there are no additional casualties and to provide full medical assistance to those who were rescued, according to deputy presidential spokesperson Lee Jae-myoung.
Yoon also called for a thorough analysis of the cause of the damage, measures to prevent a recurrence of similar accidents and an immediate inspection of noise tunnels and similar facilities, Lee said.
The authorities said the death toll could rise further depending on the outcome of the rescue operation.
A total of 94 fire trucks, 219 fire personnel and helicopters were sent to the scene, and the fire was completely extinguished at 4:12 p.m.
Authorities plan to determine the exact cause of the fire as soon as it is brought under control.
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