At least 31 killed in fire at South Korean hospital


At least 37 dead with toll feared to rise after emergency room blaze at hospital in southern city.

President Moon Jae-in convened an emergency meeting with senior advisers and expressed regret over the blaze.

A fire spread flames and smoke through a South Korean hospital Friday morning, killing at least 37 people, mainly from suffocation, and injuring almost 130 others in one of the country's deadliest blazes in years. Firefighters and hospital workers evacuated patients from an annexe that operated as a nursing home, carrying some of them on their backs.

"I didn't see him again".

He ordered a full inquiry and said "utmost government efforts" were needed to support the injured and families of the victims. South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, has faced criticism in recent years over inadequate safety standards.

The head of the foundation that operates the hospital, Son Kyung-cheol, also said in a televised briefing Friday afternoon that sprinklers were not installed in the hospital as it was not legally required.

The opposition Liberal Party was quick to condemn Moon for the disaster.

Officials said they were still investigating the cause, but are looking closely at a possible short circuit in the emergency room's heating and cooling system. "I am sorry for the patients and their caretakers", said Seok Jeong-sik, the director of Sejong Hospital. "(The government) will need to toughen fire safety regulations", Ham said.

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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.

Many patients "walked through fire and smoke" to escape from Sejong Hospital as the main exit was on the first floor, which was ablaze, a city official said.

Other patients used ladders and plastic escape slides to flee upper floors, while firefighters carried patients who could not walk. But the officials later corrected this, saying some victims were counted twice.

Earlier on Friday, news channel YTN showed black smoke billowing from the windows and entrance to the hospital and flames flickering.

At least 31 people were killed and 70 more were injured when a fire broke out at Sejong Hospital in South Korea's South Gyeongsang Province.

Song said three of the nine hospital staff on duty at the time died - at least one doctor, a nurse and a nurse's aide.

The blaze ripped through the first and second floors of the six-story hospital.