The fire killed 29 people in Jecheon may have had such a high death toll because of a number of factors to include a broken emergency exit door:
Witnesses also pointed to insufficient emergency exits and illegally parked cars that caused a delay in putting out the fire by blocking fire trucks’ access to the building.
The incident is invoking comparisons with a fire which erupted three years ago at an apartment in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province. The building also contained the flammable material and was constructed in a similar style.
Police will also look into whether the building was properly managed, including the maintenance of sprinklers and other fire prevention facilities. Some reportedly testified that the exit door of the sauna, located on the second and third floors, had been broken. Twenty of the 29 people who died were using the facility when the fire erupted. [Korea Times]
I have personally seen fire exits chained before in Korean buildings so the fact that the exit door from the sauna was not working and no one bothered to repair it is not surprising to me. Additionally it has been discovered that the building’s design and materials used caused it to be an increased fire hazard.
Then to make matters the firefighters appeared to be totally unprepared to deal with such a large fire:
Firefighters have been criticized for not acting fast enough to save the 29 people killed in a fire that engulfed an eight-story commercial building in Jecheon on Thursday.
Witnesses said firefighters did not break the windows of the North Chungcheong Province building to allow people to escape but only used their hoses from the outside.
A victim’s husband, in his late 50s, cried that his wife struggled to break out of the building for so long that when he reached her body she no longer had fingerprints. The heartbroken man blamed firefighters for not breaking the windows to let people out.
Firefighters from the Chungbuk Fire Service Headquarters entered the second floor, where 20 of the deaths occurred, 40 minutes after arriving. Many of the victims were in the women’s sauna room in a public bathhouse.
City fire emergency service Chief Lee Sang-min said firefighters could not promptly reach the second floor because cars parked around the building were on fire and there was a danger of gas explosions.
Rescuers also were criticized for the delay in positioning a ladder platform fire engine. If it were not for a private firm sending a ladder truck, there might have been more deaths, reports said.
The fire engine was delayed about 30 minutes and saved only one person trapped high in the building while the private truck saved three on the eighth floor.
Lee said the ladder platform arrived late because of parked cars at the site. [Korea Times]
That is pretty sad when a private company was able to get a ladder truck to rescue people before the fire department and saved more lives.
So I wonder if the Korean left will blame President Moon for the slow rescue response, lax safety standards, and demand that he should have personally been on site to direct the rescue like they did to former President Park after the Sewol Ferry Boat sinking? Of course they won’t because the criticism was all politically motivated. There was nothing President Park could have done to rescue the people on the Sewol just like there was nothing President Moon could do to rescue people at this fire. I suspect we will hear little else about this fire and the lax safety culture in Korea will continue which there is a lot of blame to go around for that.