A fire in a South Korean hospital that did not have a sprinkler system killed at least 37 people and injured more than 70 others on Friday, officials said, the latest tragedy to raise concerns over the country’s safety standards.
Many patients “walked though fire and smoke” to escape the blaze at the Sejong Hospital, in the southern city of Miryang, as the main exit was on the first floor which was ablaze, a city official told Reuters.
Other patients used ladders and plastic escape slides to flee upper floors, while firefighters carried patients who could not walk.
The fire is the deadliest in South Korea in at least a decade and follows a fire last month which killed 29 people in a high rise sports center.
The presidential Blue House initially said the fire killed at least 41, but then deferred to the city’s fire chief who put the death toll at 37.
A list posted by fire officials outside the hospital identified at least 26 of the victims by name. With ages ranging from 35 to 96 years, at least 20 of the victims were over 70 years of age.
On a wall at a funeral home next to the hospital, officials had scrawled a handwritten list of names and hospital rooms as family members crowded around to look.
The fire started at around 7.30 a.m. (2230 GMT) at the rear of the emergency room on the first floor of the hospital, Choi Man-woo, the head of Miryang city’s fire station, told a televised media briefing. With a population of around 108,000, Miryang is about 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Seoul.
Television news footage showed a huge pall of black smoke billowing from the windows and entrance to the hospital and flames flickering.
At least 177 patients - most of them elderly - were at the hospital and an adjacent nursing home when the fire broke out, hospital director Song Byeong-cheol said at a press briefing.
REUTERS, 26th JANUARY, 2018