At least seven people were killed and 27 others were injured in a fire at a local bus terminal near Seoul on Monday, fire and hospital officials said.
The blaze occurred about 9:10 am at an underground construction site of the Goyang Bus Terminal in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, firefighters said. The fire was brought under control in about 20 minutes.
The injured were taken to nearby hospitals for smoke inhalation, officials said, adding that up to eight people were in critical condition.
The bodies of the victims were found at the construction site of a food court located on the first basement level of the building, the firefighters said, adding that their identities have not yet been confirmed.
The fire, which sent black smoke billowing into the sky, caused a rush-hour traffic jam around the area
Firefighting authorities said they suspect the fire was started by sparks from welding work.
The five-story terminal building has several bus bays that can station 250 buses, and a multiplex composed of a shopping center, a supermarket and a movie theater It opened in June 2012.
Baekseok Station on subway Line No. 3, which runs through Seoul and the surrounding areas in Gyeonggi Province, is near the scene. Subway trains, which had earlier passed by the station without stopping, resumed stopping at the station as of 10:24 am
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters set up an emergency team in central Seoul to promptly deal with the accident amid growing fears that the number of casualties may rise.
The fire came as the country is grappling with the aftermath of last month’s ferry sinking that has left more than 300 people dead or missing, and revealed the nation’s lax safety standards and poor disaster response system
A week ago, President Park Geun-hye offered a fresh apology for the government’s poor response to the tragedy, vowing sweeping reforms to make South Korea a safer nation to live in, including dismantling the Coast Guard and creating a new safety agency. (Yonhap)