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30 Workers Killed in Warehouse Blaze

Posted January. 08, 2008 08:16,   


A fire broke out Monday in a refrigerated warehouse in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, killing 30 of 57 workers inside and leaving ten others missing.

Police and firefighters said a strong explosion occurred in the basement of Korea 2000, Ltd., a logistics company, around 10:50 a.m.

At the time, 57 people were in the building. Eleven were found dead four hours after the fire broke out, and 29 remained missing as of 6 p.m.

Seven people who were above ground escaped right after the explosion. Another ten who were close to the entrance to the two-story building were rescued but wounded, and are being treated at hospitals.

The 57 people in the building comprised 34 refrigerant facility technicians, 17 electricians, three air conditioner specialists and several managers.

Cause of the Fire

The explosion occurred as oil vapors spread on the floor ignited when maintenance was being conducted in the basement.

“There were apparently three serial explosions at 10-second intervals as the oil vapors ignited, and the fire spread to the entire floor in seconds since the building was built with sandwich panels," said an official of the Icheon Fire Department.

A survivor said the fire shot up from the basement with smoke. Police said it was probably triggered by sparks from welding or a lighter.

The death toll is expected to grow because the basement floor was a closed space and had only one entrance, blocking the outflow of poisonous fumes.

“Today’s task was injection of the refrigerant Freon and work using urethane was completed nine days ago," said a Korea 2000 source. “It is true, however, that some urethane fuel was left there.”

Rescue & Extinguishment

Rushing to the scene were 214 fire trucks, 1,025 firefighters and two police divisions.

They had a hard time going into the building because of other explosions, as chemicals stored in the building ignited and spread poisonous gases.

“40 people did not escape from the building, and they’re likely all dead,” a source at the Icheon Fire Department said. “Chemicals setting off a series of explosions made it additionally difficult for rescuers to enter the building."

Korea 2000, Ltd. specializes in the construction of refrigerated warehouses. The building that exploded was built between July and November last year.

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