Eighteen dead in fitness centre blaze in S. Korea: fire service

At least 18 people were killed and 24 injured Thursday in a major blaze at a building housing a sports centre and public bath in the South Korean city of Jecheon, officials said. Flames and smoke billow from an eight-storey building after a fire broke out in Jecheon, 120 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on December 21, 2017. Sixteen people died and more than 10 others were injured in a fire that engulfed a commercial building in Jecheon on December 21, Yonhap reported. / AFP PHOTO The fire broke out around 4:00pm local time (0700 GMT) and quickly engulfed the entire eight-storey building, leaving many trapped inside. Sixteen victims were found at a public sauna and two elsewhere in the building, the National Fire Agency said. Television footage showed the building consumed by flames and issuing dark plumes of smoke, as several people stood waiting to be rescued from an outdoor terrace. The fire — believed to have started in a parking lot on the first floor — has been mostly put out, but the death toll may rise further as firefighters continue to search the building, an agency spokesman said. “The fire produced so much toxic smoke so quickly, leaving many people unable to evacuate,” the spokesman said. Jecheon is in central South Korea, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the capital Seoul. President Moon Jae-In expressed regret over the accident and urged officials “utmost efforts” for rescue and search operations, his office said. The worst fire accident ever to hit the modern South Korea was an arson attack on a subway station in the southeastern city of Daegu that killed 192 people in 2003.