Burnt factory searched after blaze kills 22

Gruelling task: Firefighters taking a break as rescue work continues following a deadly fire at a lithium battery factory owned by South Korean battery maker Aricell. — Reuters

Rescue workers were combing through the charred ruins of a factory building near the capital to find any more fire victims, a day after a devastating blaze likely triggered by exploding lithium batteries killed 22 people, mostly Chinese migrant workers.

More than 100 people were working at the factory in Hwaseong city, just south of Seoul, when the fire tore through it on Monday morning.

Security cameras showed smoke engulfing the second-floor worksite of the factory, soon after sparks were detected from a site where lithium batteries were stored, fire officials said.

One victim was pronounced dead at a hospital. Fire workers retrieved 21 bodies from the factory one by one later on Monday.

Eighteen victims were Chinese, two were South Korean and one was Laotian. The nationality of one of the dead was being verified.

Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming visited the factory site on Monday night and expressed condolences to the victims.

Police were extracting DNA samples from the dead bodies and their potential relatives to confirm their relations, fire officials said.

One factory worker remains out of contact but his mobile phone signal was detected at the building on Monday. Eight were injured, two of them in serious condition.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol also visited the factory site on Monday.

He expressed condolences to the dead victims and ordered officials to put in place measures to effectively deal with battery-related fires, according to Yoon’s office.

Yesterday, more than 50 fire officers, aided by two rescue dogs and other equipment, were mobilised to continue searching the factory, local fire official Kim Jin-young told a televised briefing.

He said partial remains were discovered but it was not immediately known if they belonged to the missing person.

Most of the dead workers were daily labourers so they were not likely familiar with the building’s internal structure, senior fire officer Jo Seon-ho told reporters.

Labour officials said the government will separately investigate whether any safety issues were involved in the fire.

Monday’s blaze is one of the deadliest in South Korea in recent years. — AP

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