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Tragedy in South Korea Massive Fire at Battery Factory Claims 22 Lives, Including 18 Chinese Nationals

Photo : AFP

In a tragic incident at a lithium battery factory in Hwaseong city, South Korea, a massive fire claimed the lives of 22 people, including 18 Chinese nationals, marking one of the country's deadliest factory disasters in recent years. The fire erupted on the second floor of the factory where lithium-ion batteries were being inspected and packaged, triggering multiple explosions that were heard by over 100 workers present.

Firefighter Kim Jin-young reported that most of the victims suffered severe burns, complicating their identification process. Rescue operations were hindered by fears of additional explosions from the volatile lithium batteries, requiring firefighters to cautiously manage the blaze with dry sand due to the ineffectiveness of water.

The factory, owned by Aricell, a prominent South Korean battery manufacturer, housed approximately 35,000 battery cells on the second floor alone. Images captured after the fire broke out showed thick plumes of grey smoke and fierce orange flames engulfing the facility. Firefighters battled the blaze while preventing its spread to neighboring factories, employing extensive resources to contain the disaster.

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President Yoon Suk Yeol issued urgent directives to mobilize all available personnel and equipment for rescue efforts, emphasizing the safety of firefighters amid the rapidly spreading fire. Local authorities issued alerts urging residents to stay indoors due to heavy smoke, emphasizing public safety measures.

The incident has sent shockwaves through South Korea, a leading producer of batteries crucial for electric vehicles and other electronics. Shares of S-connect, the parent company of Aricell, plummeted following news of the fire, reflecting broader economic concerns. This disaster recalls previous industrial tragedies in the region, including a warehouse fire in Icheon in 2020 that claimed 38 lives.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing, highlighting the challenges and risks associated with manufacturing lithium batteries, known for their high volatility and widespread industrial applications worldwide.

June 24, 2024 4:36 p.m. 410

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