Death toll from S. Korea hospital fire rises to 40

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Heavy grey smoke rises into the air from a fire at a hospital building in Miryang on January 26, 2018. At least 31 people were killed in a blaze at a hospital in South Korea on January 26, Yonhap news agency said, with dozens more injured. / AFP PHOTO / YONHAP / - / - South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE

SEOUL, Feb 2, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The death toll from a devastating hospital fire in South Korea rose to 40 after an elderly man died on Friday, officials said.

The 81-year-old died at a nearby hospital in Miryang where he had been in critical condition, a city government spokeswoman said.

He had been on the second floor of the Sejong hospital and inhaled toxic smoke when fire ripped through the building a week ago, she added.

The death brought the toll level with a 2008 warehouse blaze in the city of Icheon, east of Seoul.

The hospital fire started on the ground floor and spread upstairs quickly, sending toxic fumes sweeping through the six-storey building.

Authorities are still investigating the exact cause but preliminary inspections have suggested possible defects in wiring in the ceiling of what used to be an office pantry.

Fingers have also been pointed at cheap but flammable construction materials, inadequate fire-blocking doors, illicit addition of rooms and a lack of staff.

While South Korea has risen to become the world’s 11th-largest economy, some of its infrastructure was built rapidly and it has a history of preventable disasters.

The hospital had 95 beds but no sprinkler system as it was not large enough to be required to do so under fire-prevention regulations.

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