Seoul/South Korea: A massive fire broke out at a South Korean hospital Friday killing at least 41 people while more than 80 others were injured in the fire, in the country’s worst blaze for 15 years.
That comes just weeks before thousands of athletes and foreign visitors are expected in the country for the Winter Olympics.
The six-storey structure housed a nursing home as well as the hospital.
The death toll rose rapidly throughout the morning, as those initially pulled from the blaze succumbed to their injuries.
By lunchtime, it had hit 41, according to the presidential Blue House.
“Two nurses said they had seen fire suddenly erupting in the emergency room,” said fire chief Choi Man-Woo.
All the patients had been brought out, he said, adding that evacuating 15 sick people from the intensive care unit on the third floor took longer as firefighters had to wait for medical staff to supervise the process.
All those who died were in the hospital, he said.
“Many victims were from the first and second floors of the hospital… some died on their way to another hospital,” he said.
Video footage and pictures showed the building engulfed by thick, dark smoke and surrounded by multiple fire trucks.
Survivors were brought out wrapped in blankets, and firefighters picked their way through the blackened shell of the building after the blaze was extinguished.
Around 200 people were in the Sejong Hospital when the fire erupted, police said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In called an emergency meeting with advisers, and demanded an immediate probe into the cause of the blaze.
The fire came only a month after 29 people were killed in an inferno at a fitness club in the South Korean city of Jecheon — a disaster blamed on insufficient emergency exits, flammable finishing materials and illegally parked cars blocking access to emergency vehicles.