South Korean fire kills 40

January 7, 2008 9:34:57 AM PST
Fire tore through a refrigeration warehouse under construction in an industrial district south of the capital Monday, killing 40 workers and sending toxic fumes into the air, officials said. Kim Jung-geun, a local fire official, said all of the dead were discovered in the basement of the burned out warehouse in Icheon, about 50 miles south of Seoul.

He said the exact cause of the morning fire was not known, but that workers were injecting urethane foam into basement walls when the fire started. He said arson was not suspected.

Kim said explosions heard around the time of the fire were caused by the blaze itself. He also said only one body had been positively identified so far, because the corpses were so badly burned.

Ha Jae-ho, a fire investigator, told YTN that firefighters and rescue officials were searching the wreckage carefully because they feared the building might collapse.

Cable news channel YTN showed black-clad firefighters battling thick black, brown and white smoke, some of it spewing from underground.

An official at Korea 2000, a logistics company that owns the facility, said the building was under construction and was intended for refrigeration purposes.

The official said workers were applying the final touches when the fire broke out. The official requested anonymity, saying company rules prohibit employees from speaking to the media.

Icheon, a crossroads for South Korea's largest highways, is home to Hynix Semiconductor, the world's second-largest manufacture of computer memory chips.