Dozens hospitalized after fire engulfs 33-story apartment building in South Korea
The fire broke out at the 33-story building around 11 p.m., and continued burning through Friday morning, authorities told CNN. Photos of the scene show black smoke billowing above the building, and blackened debris scattered along the street.
There have been no deaths reported so far. 91 people were sent to hospital for minor injuries such as smoke inhalation and abrasions, according to the Ulsan Fire Department.
77 people were rescued from the building, and another 82 were evacuated to a nearby hotel, according to the country’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety.
Ulsan is located on South Korea’s southeast coast, near the city of Busan.
The first emergency call was made by a resident on the 12th floor, but it’s not clear where the blaze started and what caused it, said the fire department. The Ministry said it appears to have spread from one of the lower floors up to the top floor, burning the building’s outer wall.
Authorities said the fire department’s quick response was likely why there weren’t major casualties; firefighters arrived at the building five minutes after receiving the first call.
More than 1,000 personnel were deployed, said the fire department, including 930 firefighters and 75 other emergency responders.
Strong winds fanned the flames and made it difficult to completely extinguish the fire, with embers flaring up for hours afterward, according to Yonhap, the country’s government-funded news agency.
As of Friday morning, flames are still burning on the top three floors on the west side of the building, fueled by winds blowing from east to west, said the fire department. 200 firefighters are now taking shifts to search the building floor-by-floor.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun thanked Ulsan’s emergency responders and firefighters, and expressed his condolences to those affected in a Facebook post on Friday morning. He also urged government ministries and fire prevention authorities to provide stronger protection measures and fire preparedness plans.
South Korea has faced several major fires in the past few years, the most recent being a fire in the city of Icheon this April. The fire, which broke out at a construction site, killed 38 people and injured at least 10.