41 killed in South Korean hospital blaze

41 killed in South Korean hospital blaze

A fire in Sejong General Hospital in the South Korean city of Miryang has killed at least 37 people and injured more than 100 others.

Patients trapped on upper floors used ladders and plastic escape slides to get out of the building and firefighters carried those who could not walk.

At least 177 patients - a lot of them elderly - were in the building when the fire broke out, according to Song.

"Many victims were from the first and second floors of the hospital. some died on their way to another hospital", he said.

A witness, who only gave her surname Kim, said a man driving a moving truck with a long metal ladder arrived at the scene to rescue many people before the toxic smoke filled the building.

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 cause of the fire is not known, but authorities say it began in the emergency room.

The dead include three hospital staff - a doctor, nurse and nurse assistant - and most of the fatalities were patients in an intensive-care unit for respiratory illnesses. The nursing home and hospital between them have about 200 beds.

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More than 100 people were injured - 10 are in critical condition, and 18 are in serious condition, fire officials said.

"According to an initial eyewitness, fire broke out where there were two air-conditioning and heating devices in the emergency room", Dr Song said.

Police and forensic investigators dressed in white clothes, masks and helmets examined burned equipment in the blackened emergency room.

The fire is the country's deadliest in at least a decade, according to Yonhap news agency. Charred debris and glass littered the ground outside.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called an emergency meeting with officials.

Minister of Interior and Safety Kim Boo-kyum flew by helicopter to Miryang at about 9 a.m.to oversee the emergency response operations. It was South Korea's worst fire since 2008, when a warehouse fire in Icheon left 40 people dead.

The deadly incident comes less than a month after another fire that killed 29 people in the city of Jecheon.

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