Videos Show Aftermath Of Deadly South Korean Factory Explosion That Killed At Least 22

Image not from story (Wikimedia Commons/Public/By Claus Ableiter - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

John Oyewale Contributor
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A series of fiery explosions erupted in a lithium battery factory in an industrial area in South Korea Monday, killing at least 22, multiple outlets reported.

Videos published by Reuters and Sky News show smoke billowing skywards with fire trucks at the scene, and the smoldering warehouse after firefighters appeared to have contained the blaze. South Korea-based lithium battery manufacturer Aricell owns the factory, located in Hwaseong, a major industrial cluster 90-odd minutes southwest of Seoul, Reuters reported.

The blaze started around 10:31 a.m. local time (10:31 p.m. ET Sunday), Kim Jin-young, an official at the Hwaseong fire service, told reporters, according to Reuters. Nineteen of the dead were expatriate workers—18 Chinese and one Laotian, Kim reportedly added. Two of the remaining three were South Koreans, while the identity of the third was not yet determined, according to the outlet.

The blaze flared within 15 seconds but took six hours to contain, the outlet noted. The affected warehouse reportedly held 35,000 batteries. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, according to the outlet.

The deceased likely died within moments of inhaling extremely toxic fumes released in the blaze so intense that identifying the dead was initially difficult, according to Reuters.

Eight persons were injured, Sky News reported. Two suffered significant burns, officials stated, according to Reuters. The fumes, more than the flames, reportedly caused the casualties.

Most of the deceased expatriate workers were temporary workers, possibly unfamiliar with the warehouse’s structure, Gyeonggi province fire official Cho Sun-ho said, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Maintenance Worker Dies After Heart Attack, Being Trapped In Food Processing Facility’s Equipment: Report)

“I thought there were gunshots and shells falling because of the war,” a worker in a nearby restaurant frequented by the factory workers told Reuters. “It was so loud, it kept rumbling and banging.”

“I feel really bad,” another restaurant worker told Reuters. “The victims used to come here every day, but they didn’t come today. I don’t have an appetite anymore, and I don’t feel like eating anything for dinner, because I feel very sad for them.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol reportedly visited the scene.

“Battery materials such as nickel are easily flammable,” Fire and Disaster Prevention professor Kim Jae-ho of Daejeon University told Reuters. “So often, there is not enough time to respond, compared to a fire caused by other materials.”

Highly toxic materials are often used to make batteries.

The 48-strong Aricell, founded in 2020, reportedly manufactures lithium primary batteries for radio communication systems and sensors.

South Korea — home to major global carmakers Hyundai and Kia — is a major producer of lithium-ion batteries, often used in electric vehicles, according to Reuters.