Exploding batteries start catastrophic S Korea factory fire

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By Creative Media News

  • South Korea factory fire kills 22 workers
  • Lithium battery explosion triggered the fire
  • Firefighters used dry sand to control blaze

A large factory fire in South Korea occurred after multiple lithium batteries burst, killing at least 22 people.

The fire broke out Monday morning at the Aricell plant in Hwaseong City, some 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of Seoul.

Local television footage captured enormous smoke clouds and tiny explosions as firefighters attempted to extinguish the fire. A portion of the roof had collapsed.

South Korea is a significant producer of lithium batteries used in a wide range of products, including electric vehicles and laptop computers.

Kim Jin-young, a fire official, confirmed that 18 Chinese, one Laotian, and two South Korean labourers died. A last body had yet to be identified, and there is concern that at least one more person may be missing.

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

Out of the 100 workers who were working when the fire started, eight more were hurt, two of them critically.

The second floor of the Aricell factory contained an estimated 35,000 battery cells, which were examined and packaged, with more batteries kept elsewhere.

Mr Kim claimed the fire started when a series of battery cells detonated, although it’s unclear what caused the initial explosions.

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He explained that it was first impossible to enter the site “due to fears of additional explosions”.

It is yet unclear what caused the fire. Lithium batteries can explode if damaged or overheated.

Whatever the source, the fire spread quickly once it started, leaving the workers with little time to escape, according to Kim Jae-ho, a fire and disaster prevention professor at Daejeon University.

He told Reuters that battery components like nickel are easily combustible. Compared to other types of fires, responding to them often requires more time.

Because a lithium fire reacts vigorously with water, firefighters used dry sand to put out the blaze, which took several hours to get under control.
However, due to the chemical process, the fire may re-ignite without notice after it has been doused.

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