Dozens killed in fire at Miryang hospital

South Korea

South Korea

At least 37 people are dead and dozens injured following a Friday morning fire that broke out in a hospital emergency room in Miryang, a town in southeastern South Korea.

Many patients "walked through fire and smoke" to escape from Sejong Hospital as the main exit was on the first floor, which was ablaze, a city official said.

The six-storey structure housed a nursing home as well as the hospital, and the National Fire Agency said 33 people had been killed, with 13 critically injured. The National Fire Agency said officials were trying to identify other victims.

Most patients at the hospital were either of cerebrovascular disease or stroke.

"There was so much smoke that it was hard for people to approach [the building]", a witness told a local television news outlet.

The cause of the blaze is unknown.

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known.

"The truck came even before ambulances or firefighting trucks ... and lifted the ladder towards people screaming for help from the windows of the second and third floor", Kim said - an account confirmed by many other witnesses.

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"When our fast-reaction squad arrived at the scene, the building was already engulfed in thick smoke and flames and they were unable to make their way into it", Choi said.

Son Kyung-cheol, head of the foundation that operates the hospital, said in a televised briefing that the hospital did not have sprinklers as it was not required by law.

"According to an initial eyewitness, fire broke out where there were two air-conditioning and heating devices in the emergency room", Dr Song said.

There have been several deadly fires in South Korea, which has a large elderly population, in recent years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity saying he wasn't authorized to speak to media. He added that the hospital had regular safety inspections.

M - President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov expressed condolences to President of South Korea Moon Jae-in over the dead fire in the hospital.

Yonhap says the hospital has 193 beds including 98 beds for the elderly who needs nursing care with 35 medical staff.

The latest blaze occurred not long after a conflagration at a fitness centre in Jecheon city killed 29 people last month.

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