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Explosion and Fire at South Korean Battery Factory Claims 22 Lives, Mostly Foreign Workers

A lithium battery factory in Hwaseong, South Korea, was engulfed in flames after multiple batteries exploded, resulting in the death of 22 workers, primarily Chinese nationals, according to fire officials. The incident occurred on Monday at a facility operated by Aricell, a primary battery manufacturer, located in an industrial area southwest of Seoul.

The victims reportedly succumbed to highly toxic gases almost immediately after the fire began. The exact cause of the explosions remains unknown. Firefighters managed to bring the blaze under control after approximately six hours.

Among the deceased were eighteen Chinese workers, two South Koreans, and one Laotian. The nationality of the remaining victim has yet to be confirmed, as per Kim Jin-young, an official from the Hwaseong fire service. The fire was first reported at 10:31 a.m. local time after a series of battery cells exploded inside a warehouse containing 35,000 batteries.

Firefighters encountered difficulties in identifying the victims due to the intensity of the fire. Two individuals were reported to be receiving treatment for severe burns.

Television footage showed firefighters dousing the damaged steel and concrete structure, parts of which had collapsed. Large sections of the building appeared to have been blown out into the street by the explosions. Aerial footage captured massive clouds of white smoke and ongoing explosions within the building.

Most of the foreign workers killed were temporary employees, likely unfamiliar with the building’s layout, explained Gyeonggi province fire official Cho Sun-ho. The fire spread rapidly, with smoke filling the area within seconds, causing the victims to succumb quickly.

Kim Jae-ho, a professor of Fire and Disaster Prevention at Daejeon University, noted that the fire spread too quickly for workers to escape due to the flammable nature of battery materials such as nickel.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the scene later that day, and Interior Minister Lee Sang-min urged local authorities to prevent hazardous chemicals from contaminating the surrounding area.

Founded in 2020, Aricell specializes in lithium primary batteries for sensors and radio communication devices. The company employs 48 people, according to its latest regulatory filing and LinkedIn profile. Efforts to reach Aricell for comment were unsuccessful.

Aricell is majority-owned by S-Connect, which is listed on the junior Kosdaq index. S-Connect’s shares fell by 22.5% following the incident. Battery production involves highly toxic materials, and the fatalities were primarily due to exposure to these substances rather than burns, according to Park Chul-wan from Seojeong University.

South Korea, home to major lithium-ion battery producers and automakers like Hyundai and Kia, recently enacted legislation to hold company executives accountable for fatal industrial accidents, with potential jail terms, in response to frequent workplace fatalities.

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Charles Wright
Charles Wrighthttps://devstory.org.za
Charles Wright embarked on his journalism career two decades ago, quickly making a name for himself with his insightful reporting and keen eye for detail. His dedication to uncovering the truth and presenting well-researched stories has earned him a reputation as a reliable and respected journalist. Over the years, Charles has covered a wide range of topics, from local news and politics to international affairs and in-depth investigative pieces. Throughout his career, Charles has demonstrated exceptional skills in investigative journalism, political reporting, and feature writing. His ability to dissect complex issues and present them in a clear, engaging manner has won him numerous accolades and the trust of his readers. Charles is known for his commitment to unbiased reporting and his relentless pursuit of the facts, which has made him a cornerstone of the journalistic community.