Published: Sun, January 28, 2018
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At least 31 dead in South Korean hospital blaze

At least 31 dead in South Korean hospital blaze

A fire spread flames and smoke through a South Korean hospital Friday morning, killing dozens of people, mainly from suffocation, and injuring almost 130 others in one of the country's deadliest blazes in years.

Choi said all the dead were from the hospital's general ward and 94 evacuees were taken to a nursing ward for the elderly. Pictures from the scene posted on social media showed survivors being brought out wrapped in blankets, and firefighters making their way through the blackened shell of the hospital building after the blaze was extinguished.

Officials said they were still investigating the cause, although they suspect a possible short circuit in the emergency room's heating and cooling system could have started the blaze.

Hospital director Son Gyeong-Cheol admitted there was no sprinkler system in the building.

Patients were moved to nearby facilities, but dozens died after reaching other hospitals, the local fire chief said.

Local reports say there were around 200 patients - including the 100 in an adjoining facility - at the time of the incident.

Minister of Interior and Safety Kim Boo-kyum flew by helicopter to Miryang at about 9 oversee the emergency response operations.

South Korea is one of the fastest-aging countries in the world and has many nursing hospitals, which are preferred for elderly people who need long-term doctors' care.

This fatal fire comes just a month after a fire in a sports center building that killed 29 people and led to criminal charges for negligence by the building's owners.

Authorities revised the death toll down from 39 on Friday afternoon, but a Miryang City official warned it could rise as at least 18 patients remained in critical condition.

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