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Elderly patients die as blaze rips through South Korean hospital

Survivors were rescued by clinging on to a rope hung from a helicopter.
Getty Images

At least 37 people are dead and more than 130 injured after a fire tore through a hospital and nursing home in southeastern South Korea Friday, the country’s deadliest inferno in a decade.

The fire broke out around 7.30 a.m. on the ground floor of Sejong Hospital in the city of Miryang, 175 miles southeast of Seoul. Some 180 people were inside at the time.

Patients used plastic escape slides and ladders to flee the upper floors, while others were carried out by firefighters or rescued by clinging on to a rope hung from a helicopter.


Most of the dead were killed from inhaling toxic fumes, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. Many victims were patients who had difficulty moving, but were faced with flames and thick smoke, officials said.

Eighteen of the injured are in serious condition, meaning the toll could rise further, officials said.

The fire occurred just weeks after 29 people were killed when a blaze ripped through an eight-floor fitness club in Jecheon.

The two incidents have raised concerns about lax building and fire safety standards in South Korea, where a lot of infrastructure was built quickly during the post-war economic boom. President Moon Jae-in held an emergency meeting with top aides over the Miryang blaze, Yonhap reported.

Song Byeong-chol, the director of the hospital, said the building did not have sprinklers, but they had been planning to install them to comply with a new law requiring all hospitals to have the water systems by June. Under the previous law, the hospital had not been considered large enough to require the safety feature.

The Miryang fire is South Korea’s deadliest since 2008, when 40 workers were killed in a warehouse fire in Icheon, in Gyeonggi Province.

Cover image: Firefighter inspects a burnt hospital after a fire on January 26, 2018 in Miryang, South Korea. (Photo by Kyungnam Shinmun via Getty Images)