Fire in South Korea hospital kills 37, injures over 140

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Smoke rises from a burning hospital in Miryang. Kim Dong-min/Yonhap via REUTERS

At least 37 people have died from a fire that broke in a hospital in Miryang City, South Korea last Friday, while over 140 people have been injured.

The incident is considered as South Korea’s deadliest fire in almost a decade. According to Miryang authorities, the death toll of the fire could still rise, as 18 of the injured people are still in critical condition.

The fire started at around 7:20 a.m. local time in the emergency room of the Sejong Hospital located on the ground floor. South Korean officials are still investigating what caused the fire.

The blaze ripped through the first and second floors of the six-story hospital. It took emergency responders three hours before the fire was completely extinguished.

A source from the National Fire Agency said that most of the deaths from the incident were due to suffocation, with only one victim suffering burns.

“Because the hospital had many intensive care units and elderly patients, there were a lot of people with breathing problems,” said Chun Jae-kyung, head of the public medical center in Miryang.

Three of the victims were hospital workers, a doctor in the emergency room, a nurse, and a nurse assistant on the second floor.

According to the hospital’s chairman, Son Kyung-chul, there were no sprinklers installed in the hospital due to its small size. Fire officials confirmed that the hospital was not big enough to be required to install them. Authorities are also investigating if the hospital had missed any mandatory safety inspections.

The deadly incident comes less than a month after another fire that killed 29 people in the city of Jecheon. The events raise alarm over the inadequate safety standards in the country.

After the fire, South Korean President Moon Jae-in gathered his staff for an emergency meeting. The head of state promised to work out measures to prevent the same incident from happening in the future.