Fire at dormitory-style housing facility in Seoul kills at least 7

Jay Yim, Nov. 9, 2018, 9:24 a.m.

A fire broke out at a low-cost dormitory housing facility in Seoul on Friday, killing at least seven people and injuring 11 others, fire officials and police said.

The blaze is believed to have broken out on the third floor of the three-story building at around 5 a.m. in the center of the capital, according to the firefighters. It was extinguished at 7 a.m.

"We've got a witness statement that the fire started at a room near the entrance to the third floor," a fire official said. "People inside had great difficulty evacuating because the exit was blocked by the blaze."

Jongno Police Station said later in a press briefing that an electronic heater in Room 301 most likely caused the fire. Police and firefighters ruled out arson as a possible cause since no traces of flammable substances were detected at the scene.

Firefighters conduct an on-site investigation at a three-story building in central Seoul on Nov. 9, 2018, after a fire broke out there earlier in the day. (Yonhap)

About 50 residents were at the accommodation -- commonly referred to as a "goshiwon" in Korean -- which occupied the second and third floors of the building. Most of the residents are day laborers, and those killed or injured were aged between their 50s and late 70s, including one Japanese national, officials said.

The aged building had no sprinkler, but it was equipped with other emergency equipment, such as an emergency bell, an emergency exit and an emergency descending device.

"Victims failed to use the descending device. They might have panicked in the fire," an official said.

Police and fire officials have been processing the scene to determine the exact cause of the fire and if the fire detector installed in each room worked properly.

"We will secure CCTV footage and witnesses to see if there are any suspicions of crime," a police official said earlier.

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