38 dead in S.Korea warehouse fire, rescue operations continue
At least 38 people were killed as a fire ripped through a warehouse in South Korea's Icheon city, with rescue workers continuing their search for missing persons amid the charred rubble on Thursday.
The fire,one of the country's deadliest in years, engulfed the four-storey building under construction in the city, 50 km southeast of Seoul, on Wednesday afternoon and was put out five hours later, reports Yonhap news Agency.
Most of the 38 deceased were construction workers. Eight injured people were in serious condition as of Thursday morning, while two others sustained minor injuries.
Firefighters brought in excavators to search every corner of the warehouse as they struggle to confirm if any more victims remain in the wreckage.
"We are continuing our search operation in order to find if there are any more victims, unaccounted for or buried somewhere," Yonhap News Agency quoted a firefighter as saying.
Starting Thursday morning, the police, firefighting authorities and the National Forensic Service were planning to launch a joint investigation to determine the exact cause of the fire.
Authorities were presuming that the fire started on the second underground floor during construction work involving urethane, a combustible chemical used for insulation work, and the installation of a freight elevator.
Authorities were also stepping up identification efforts, as the identity of nine of those killed remained unknown as of early Thursday with their bodies burned beyond recognition.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun convened a meeting of government ministers Thursday to discuss the government's response to the disaster.
"We need to find a more practical solution in order to prevent the recurrence of a fire at a construction site," Chung noted.
He called for a thorough investigation into the cause of the recent fire and whether safety requirements were followed at the construction site.