Hospital Fire Kills At Least 39 in South Korea

Firefighters work as smoke billows from a hospital in Miryang, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. The hospital fire causes scores of casualties and injuries, according to a fire agency official. (National Fire Agency/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL — A fire swept through a hospital for the elderly in southeastern South Korea on Friday, killing more than 30 people and injuring dozens in one of the country’s deadliest fires in recent years.

A health official says the death toll from a hospital fire in South Korea has risen to 39.Local health official Cheon Jae-kyung says 10 others are in critical condition from Friday’s fire at Sejong Hospital in the southeastern city of Miryang.

He says most of the dead victims were killed by smoke inhalation.

The cause of the blaze is unknown.

President Moon Jae-in’s office said Moon convened an emergency meeting with top advisers to discuss the fire. But it gave no further details.

Sejong Hospital has a nursing hospital for the elderly and also offers regular medical services. The hospital has 193 beds including 98 beds for the elderly who needs nursing care with 35 medical staff, according to Yonhap news agency.

South Korea is one of the fastest-aging countries in the world and has many nursing hospitals, which are preferred for elderly people who need long-term doctors’ care.

Several recent fires in South Korea have been deadly.

In late December, 29 people were killed in a building fire in central Seoul, which was the country’s deadliest blaze over the past decade before the hospital fire. Last weekend, a fire at a Seoul motel killed six people, and police arrested a man who allegedly set it ablaze in anger because he had been denied a room for being heavily drunk.

In 2014, a fire set by an 81-year-old dementia patient killed 21 at another hospital for the elderly.

Story: Hyung-jin Kim and Youkyung Lee