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Hospital fire kills at least 39 people in South Korea

The fire is South Korea’s deadliest in a decade pix REUTERS

At least 39 people have been killed and more than 70 injured in a fire at a hospital in South Korea.

The blaze is thought to have started in the emergency room at Sejong Hospital in the south-eastern city of Miryang.

About 200 patients were inside the building and an adjoining nursing home at the time.

It is South Korea’s deadliest fire in almost a decade and the toll is expected to rise with several of the injured in critical condition.

Firefighters told the Yonhap news agency that the victims appeared to have died from smoke inhalation. Hospital medical staff, including a doctor and a nurse, are among the victims.

Authorities have given varying death tolls, with fire officials confirming 39 victims to the BBC, but police announcing 41 dead.

Smoke rises from a burning hospital in Miryang, South Korea
It is not known what caused the fire pix REUTERS
A firefighter searches the debris after a fire at a hospital building in Miryang
The fire is thought to have started in an emergency room pix AFP

Fire chief Choi Man-woo told reporters the cause of the fire was not yet known.

“The victims came both from the hospital and the nursing home. Some died on their way to another hospital,” news agency AFP quoted him as saying.

The hospital building did not have any fire sprinklers installed, local media said.

Under current laws, the building was not required to have fire sprinklers, but was in the process of fitting sprinklers in its adjoining nursing home.

A new law that is due to be rolled out by 30 June would have made sprinklers compulsory for nursing homes.

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Mr Choi said the fire started around 07:30 local time (22:30 GMT on Thursday) and was put out in about three hours.

According to Yonhap, 94 patients from the nursing home were safely evacuated from the building.

Pictures from the scene show the building engulfed by heavy grey smoke as well as patients being rescued.

Firefighters try to put out a fire at a hospital in Miryang, southeastern South Korea, 26 January 2018.
The cause of the fire is not yet known pix EPA

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arranged an emergency meeting to discuss ways of dealing with the fire.

According to Yonhap news agency, senior officials from both the governing and the opposition parties travelled to Miryang to offer their condolences and call for a thorough investigation into what caused the tragedy.

“We hope that all-out efforts are made to prevent additional victims,” Kim Hyun, the spokeswoman of the ruling Democratic Party, said according to Yonhap.

A patient is rescued from a burning hospital in Miryang
Scores of patients were inside the building and a neighbouring nursing home pix REUTERS

Miryang is about 270km (168 miles) south-east of the capital, Seoul.

The hospital has been operating since 2008. The nursing home and hospital between them have about 200 beds.

About 35 medical staff work at the hospital, according to provincial officials.

The fire comes just a month after 29 people in the South Korean city of Jecheon were killed in a blaze at a public gym.

Source: BBC

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