Seoul, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- A massive fire at a high-rise building in the South Korean city of Ulsan has left about 90 people hospitalized for smoke inhalation, as firefighters battled to extinguish the blaze Friday, Yonhap news agency reported.
The fire broke out around 11.10 pm local time (14:10 GMT) on Thursday night in the 33-floor Samhwan Art Nouveau commercial and residential building – with around 130 apartments inside – in the city on the southeastern coast of the Korean Peninsula.
Although firefighters managed to bring the fire under control in about two hours, they were still trying Friday morning to completely extinguish the blaze, fanned by strong winds, and were searching for anyone left inside.
At least 88 people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, although no fatalities have so far been reported, according to local authorities.
The fire is thought to have started on the 12th floor, but the cause is so far unknown and an investigation is underway.
The flames spread rapidly through the structure and hundreds of people, both residents of the building and other homes in the neighborhood, were forced to evacuate.
Dozens of people were rescued from the roof of the building and the flames also affected adjacent commercial facilities, according to details collected by South Korean media.
Witnesses told local media that the exterior walls – perhaps insulation – appeared to have caused the blaze to spread so fast.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for the mobilization of all available resources to extinguish the fire and ensure people’s safety, and Interior and Safety Minister Chin Young visited the scene, Yonhap said.
The country has been plagued by fatal fires in recent years, which are often blamed on lax safety standards.
In April, another blaze at a warehouse under construction in Icheon, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the capital, Seoul, killed at least 38 people and injured 10. It is thought to have been caused by the explosion of flammable material being used in the basement.
Ulsan, located about 307 km southeast of Seoul and adjacent to the port town of Busan, is a major industrial hub in South Korea with a population of about 1.17 million people. EFE-EPA