Exploding batteries ignite deadly fire at South Korean factory

A massive factory fire in South Korea, triggered by the explosion of several lithium batteries, has claimed the lives of at least 22 people.

The fire erupted on Monday morning at the Aricell plant in Hwaseong city, approximately 45 km (28 miles) south of Seoul.

Local TV footage showed large plumes of smoke and small explosions as firefighters battled the blaze. Part of the roof had collapsed.

South Korea, a leading producer of lithium batteries used in items from electric vehicles to laptops, faces a significant industrial disaster.

Fire official Kim Jin-young reported that the deceased included 18 Chinese, one Laotian, and two South Korean workers. One body remains unidentified, and at least one person is feared missing.

"Most of the bodies are badly burned, so it will take time to identify each one," Mr. Kim told AFP.

Among the 100 workers present when the fire started, eight were injured, two seriously.

The Aricell factory housed an estimated 35,000 battery cells on its second floor, where batteries were inspected and packaged, with more stored elsewhere.

Mr. Kim said the fire started with a series of battery cell explosions, though the cause of the initial explosions is unknown. Entry to the site was initially challenging due to the risk of further explosions.

The exact cause of the blaze remains unclear. Lithium batteries are prone to explosion if damaged or overheated.

Fire and disaster prevention expert Kim Jae-ho from Daejeon University noted that once a fire involving lithium batteries starts, it spreads rapidly, leaving little time for evacuation.

"Battery materials like nickel are highly flammable," he told Reuters. "There is often not enough time to respond compared to fires caused by other materials."

Firefighters had to use dry sand to extinguish the blaze, which took several hours to control, as lithium fires react intensely with water. Even after the fire is put out, there remains a risk of re-ignition due to chemical reactions.


Post a Comment