According to the BBC, nearly 40 people perished and more than 130 were injured this week in a hospital fire in South Korea. It was the country’s deadliest fire in nearly ten years. The blaze comes on the heels of another deadly fire incident at a public gym last month where 29 were killed and just as many were injured. In both instances, working fire sprinklers were lacking.
Yesterday’s fire occurred in the emergency room at Sejong Hospital in the city of Miryang, where 200 patients were present and an additional 89 were in an adjacent nursing home. News outlets reported that the victims, mostly elderly and severely ill patients, were simply unable to escape alone and likely died of smoke inhalation.
Last month, The LA Times wrote that 29 people died when fire broke out at the Noble Fitness and Spa in Jecheon, southeast of Seoul. As was the case with the hospital fire, the victims were overcome by deadly smoke and were trapped inside.
News outlets reported that the gym owner and manager were arrested because of building safety lapses, including a malfunctioning sprinkler system. The hospital did not have fire sprinklers. Hospitals in South Korea are not required by law to have fire sprinklers. The nursing home next door; however, was in the process of installing sprinklers because a new law requiring them goes into effect in June.
Last year there were 280 total fire deaths in South Korea, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service. Conversely, the number of fire fatalities in the United States has been holding firm at 3,300 each year.