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Horror as 20 workers are burned alive in massive blaze at lithium battery factory in South Korea

The bodies of about 20 workers have been found at a South Korean lithium battery factory after a massive fire, local media reported. Fire officials say they are still searching the building.

Horrifying footage showed a huge column of smoke and flames rising high into the sky as the inferno ripped through the factory in Hwaseong, just south of the capital Seoul.

More than 100 people were working at the factory when workers heard a series of explosions from the second floor, where lithium-ion batteries are inspected and packaged, firefighter Kim Jin-young told media.

About 78 people were confirmed safe, but many more were still missing. Yonhap said “about 20 bodies (were) found” at the site after rescuers finally managed to enter.

Kim told the media that they had managed to extinguish the largest fire at the factory and were pulling bodies from the charred building. “A rescue team has entered and is conducting search and rescue operations,” he said.

Horror as 20 workers are burned alive in massive blaze

Firefighters work at the site of a burnt lithium battery production plant in Hwaseong, South Korea, Monday, June 24, 2024

A firefighter searches for missing people at the lithium battery factory

A firefighter searches for missing people at the lithium battery factory

A firefighter searches for missing people at the lithium battery factory

The building was completely destroyed by the enormous fire, which the fire brigade had difficulty extinguishing

The building was completely destroyed by the enormous fire, which the fire brigade had difficulty extinguishing

The building was completely destroyed by the enormous fire, which the fire brigade had difficulty extinguishing

The fire raged for hours, started around 10:30 am and was only brought under control by the fire brigade just after 3:00 pm. At that point, they were finally able to enter the building to recover the bodies.

Dozens of fire trucks were at the scene. A fire official earlier said: ‘Currently the fire is so intense that rescuers and firefighters cannot enter to extinguish the fire and conduct search and rescue operations.

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“After the fire is extinguished, we plan to send rescue teams to look for people.”

The massive 2,300 square meter factory had an estimated 35,000 battery cells stored on the second floor at the time of the fire, with more batteries stored in other areas.

Lithium batteries burn hot and fast and are difficult to control with conventional fire suppression methods.

“The fear of more explosions made it difficult to get in,” Kim said.

“Being a lithium battery manufacturer, we determined that spraying water will not extinguish the fire, so we are currently using dry sand,” he added.

The lithium battery factory is owned by Aricell, a South Korean primary battery manufacturer.

Emergency crews move the body of a person killed in a deadly fire at a lithium battery factory

Emergency services move the body of a person killed in a deadly fire at a lithium battery factory

Emergency crews move the body of a person killed in a deadly fire at a lithium battery factory

Firefighters retrieve the bodies of workers from the site after finally bringing the fire under control

Firefighters retrieve the bodies of workers from the site after finally bringing the fire under control

Firefighters retrieve the bodies of workers from the site after finally bringing the fire under control

Lithium batteries are used in everything from laptops to electric vehicles, but can be highly explosive, with airlines, for example, imposing strict rules on checking devices containing these batteries.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued emergency instructions to authorities, ordering them to “mobilize all available personnel and equipment to focus on the search and rescue of people,” his office said.

The president also warned authorities to “guarantee the safety of firefighters given the rapid spread of fire.”

Firefighting and rescue efforts were underway and the cause of the fire was unknown.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a primary lithium battery factory in Hwaseong

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a primary lithium battery factory in Hwaseong

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a primary lithium battery factory in Hwaseong

Authorities in Hwaseong sent a series of alerts to residents warning them to stay indoors.

‘There is a lot of smoke from factory fires. Please pay attention to safety, such as not going out,” said a text message alert.

‘Factory fire. Please take a detour via the surrounding roads and local residents, please close the windows,” said another.

South Korea is a major producer of batteries, including those used in electric vehicles. The battery manufacturers supply EV manufacturers around the world, including Tesla.

South Korea is also one of the world’s largest producers of high-quality semiconductors, and the government has invested heavily in key technologies, including displays and batteries.

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