Fire breaks out at lithium battery manufacturing plant in South Korea

A huge fire broke out at a lithium battery manufacturing plant in South Korea on Monday. According to a Reuters report, the fire broke out at around 10.30am local time at a factory operated by battery maker Aricel in Hwaseong, south of the capital Seoul. Local fire officials were quoted as saying that the fire broke out after a series of battery cells exploded inside the warehouse, which contained about 35,000 units.

Fire officials said the fire spread rapidly, Yonhap news agency reported. They said rescue workers had difficulty going inside the plant to search for people as the batteries kept exploding. The report quoted an eyewitness who escaped from the second floor of the plant as saying that there was explosive combustion in a battery cell when the fire broke out.

Firefighting operations continued until midday, and TV footage showed small explosions and showers of sparks at the burning plant, Yonhap news agency reported. About 20 bodies had been recovered, Reuters reported, while Yonhap said about 67 workers were on duty on Monday and 21 people were still out of contact.

An emergency meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters was held in the afternoon to discuss measures to reduce casualties, and Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min called on all relevant government agencies and local governments to use available resources and personnel to extinguish the fire and rescue survivors.

Earlier, President Yoon Suk-yeol instructed Lee Sang-min to make every effort to search and rescue the missing people by mobilizing all available manpower and equipment, Yonhap reported.