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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Hospital fire kills dozens in South Korea

Many more were injured, eight of whom are in a critical condition.

Firefighters work as smoke billows from a hospital in Miryang, South Korea (Kim Dong-mi/Yonhap via AP)
Firefighters work as smoke billows from a hospital in Miryang, South Korea (Kim Dong-mi/Yonhap via AP)

By Hyung-Jin Kim and Youkyung Lee, Associated Press

A fire swept through a hospital for the elderly in southeastern South Korea on Friday, killing more than 30 people and injuring dozens in one of the country’s deadliest blazes in recent years.

Fire official Choi Man-wu said in a televised briefing that the blaze at Sejong Hospital in the city of Miryang killed 31 people and injured 77, eight of whom are in a critical condition.

The fire started from the first floor emergency room of the hospital at 7.35am and was extinguished at 10.26am, Mr Choi said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

He said a total of 194 people had been hospitalised in two buildings of Sejong Hospital, including 94 elderly people who were in the nursing hospital, before the fire broke out.

President Moon Jae-in’s office said Moon convened an emergency meeting with top advisers to discuss the fire. But it gave no further details.

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A firefighter inspects the burnt hospital (Kim Dong-mi/Yonhap via AP)

Sejong Hospital has a nursing hospital for the elderly and also offers regular medical services. The hospital has 193 beds, including 98 beds for the elderly who need nursing care, with 35 medical staff, according to Yonhap news agency.

South Korea is one of the fastest-ageing countries in the world and has many nursing hospitals, which are preferred for elderly people who need long-term care.

Several recent fires in South Korea have been deadly.

In late December, 29 people were killed in a building fire in central Seoul, which was the country’s deadliest blaze over the past decade before the hospital fire. Last weekend, a fire at a Seoul motel killed six people.

In 2014, a fire set by an 81-year-old dementia patient killed 21 at another hospital for the elderly.

Press Association

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