South Korea begins search for answers after battery plant fire kills 22

June 25, 2024 4:32 pm

[Source: Reuters]

The South Korean government ordered on Tuesday urgent safety inspections at high-risk industrial sites a day after a fire at a lithium battery factory that killed 22 workers with one person still missing.

Officials from agencies including the National Forensic Service, police and the fire department entered the factory as part of a joint investigation.

The blaze which broke out inside a warehouse with 35,000 lithium batteries produced toxic smoke, and the workers likely lost consciousness and succumbed within seconds, fire officials have said.

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The fire was the latest industrial accident in a country where dozens of manufacturing workers lose their lives on the job each year despite repeated calls to improve workplace safety.

“I ask the ministries of labour and industry and the National Fire Agency to conduct an urgent safety inspection and, where there is concern of an accident, take immediate measures,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said at a cabinet meeting.

Seventeen of the 22 workers who died were Chinese and one Laotian was also among the dead. Most of them were hired temporarily to work at the plant packing primary lithium batteries run by unlisted company Aricell.

The factory is in Hwaseong, an industrial cluster southwest of the capital Seoul.

Firefighters with search dogs combed the gutted structure looking for the one person who remains missing.

They found human remains and personal articles, which will be DNA tested for identification, Hwaseong fire official Kim Jin-young said.

Established in 2020, South Korea-based Aricell makes lithium primary batteries for sensors and radio communication devices. It has 48 employees, according to its latest regulatory filing and its LinkedIn profile.