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South Korea: Exploding batteries trigger deadly fire in factory

South Korea: Exploding batteries trigger deadly fire in factory

South Korea: Exploding batteries trigger deadly fire in factory

South Korea: Exploding batteries trigger deadly fire in factory

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  • A lithium battery explosion ignited a massive factory fire at the Aricell plant in Hwaseong City.
  • Eight more people were injured, two seriously, out of the 100 working when the fire broke out.
  • The fire spread rapidly, leaving workers with little time to escape.
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A series of lithium battery explosions ignited a massive factory fire in South Korea, killing at least 22 people. The blaze erupted on Monday morning at the Aricell plant in Hwaseong city, about 45km (28 miles) south of the capital Seoul.

Local television footage showed large smoke clouds and small explosions as firefighters worked to extinguish the fire. Part of the roof had collapsed. South Korea, a leading producer of lithium batteries used in items ranging from electric vehicles to laptops, faced a significant incident.

Fire official Kim Jin-young confirmed that 18 Chinese, one Laotian, and two South Korean workers were among the dead. One body remained unidentified, and fears persisted that at least one more person might be missing. “Most of the bodies are badly burned, so it will take some time to identify each one,” Mr. Kim said, according to the news agency.

The fire injured eight more people, two seriously, out of the 100 who were working when it broke out. The Aricell factory housed an estimated 35,000 battery cells on its second floor, where workers inspected and packaged them, with more stored elsewhere. Mr. Kim said the fire started when a series of battery cells exploded, though the cause of the initial explosions remains unclear.

He explained that initial entry to the site was difficult “due to fears of additional explosions.” The cause of the blaze is still unclear. Damaged or overheated lithium batteries are at risk of exploding. According to Kim Jae-ho, a fire and disaster prevention professor at Daejeon University, once the fire started, it spread rapidly, leaving workers with little time to escape.

“Battery materials such as nickel are easily flammable,” he told Reuters news agency. “So often, there is not enough time to respond, compared to a fire caused by other materials.”

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Because a lithium fire reacts intensely with water, firefighters used dry sand to extinguish the blaze, taking several hours to bring it under control. However, the risk remains that the fire could reignite without warning due to the chemical reaction.

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