More than 20 workers passed away after a fire at a lithium battery manufacturing factory near South Korea’s capital on Monday.

Officials reportedly said 22 workers died in the incident, which included mostly Chinese migrant workers.

“The dead included 18 Chinese, two South Koreans and one Laotian, local fire official Kim Jin-young told a televised briefing,” the Associated Press noted.

The nationality of at least one other deceased individual couldn’t be immediately determined.


Per CBS News:

He said the mobile phone signals of missing people were tracked to the second floor of the factory. Kim said a witness told authorities that the fire began after batteries exploded as workers were examining and packaging them, but the exact cause would be investigated.

Kim said those found dead likely failed to escape via stairs to the ground. He said officials would investigate whether fire extinguishing systems worked as designed.

He said a total of 102 people were working at the factory when the fire occurred.

Live video broadcast by South Korean television showed firefighters dousing the heavily damaged steel and concrete building, and parts of the upper floor had completely collapsed, with large chunks of concrete seemingly blown out into the street by the force of an explosion.

From the Associated Press:

The fire started at one of the factory buildings owned by a battery manufacturer, Aricell. He said that authorities would investigate whether fire extinguishing systems were at the site and if they worked.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous in consumer goods from laptops to cellphones. They can overheat if damaged, defective or packaged improperly, leading to fires and explosions and making them a hazard for shipment aboard aircraft.

The video of the incident showed the factory’s second floor being engulfed with blaze, about 15 seconds after a small amount of white smoke was seen billowing from a battery, senior fire official Jo Seon-ho told a briefing later Monday.

Jo, citing the footage, said workers at the site mobilized fire extinguishers but failed to put out the blaze. They later rushed to an area where there was no exit before they likely inhaled toxic smoke and lost their consciousness, he said. The dead foreign workers were daily laborers so they were not likely familiar with the building’s internal structure, he added.

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