24 Jun 2024, 10:11
Update : 24 Jun 2024, 13:14

1 dead, 21 'unaccounted for' in S. Korea battery plant fire

SEOUL, June 24, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - A major fire broke out at a South Korean

lithium battery factory on Monday, authorities said, with one person
confirmed dead and 21 others unaccounted for as the blaze continued to rage.

The lithium battery plant is owned by Aricell, a South Korean primary battery
manufacturer. It is located in Hwaseong, just south of the capital Seoul.

"We are still unable to go inside and carry out rescue operation. We will
carry it out once we get the fire under control," fire fighter Kim Jin-young
told media.

"Twenty-one workers are unaccounted for now. We are planning to track their
whereabouts with their contacts provided from the company," Kim added.

"It is estimated that 67 people were working at the factory today, but the
exact number of workers has not been determined," he said.

One person was killed, and another had sustained serious burns, he added.

Factory workers described an explosion in one battery cell on the second
floor, followed by a series of explosions, Kim said.

The building had an estimated 35,000 battery cells on the second floor in
storage, with more batteries stored in other areas.

Lithium batteries burn hot and fast, and are difficult to control with
conventional fire extinguishing methods.

"Due to fears of additional explosion it is difficult to enter," Kim said.

"As it is a lithium battery manufacturer, we determined that spraying water
will not extinguish the fire, so we are currently using dry sand," he added.

Lithium batteries are used in everything from laptops to electric vehicles --
but can be highly explosive, with airlines, for example, imposing strict
regulations on checking devices containing them.

- 'Mobilise all personnel' -

Images shared by the Yonhap news agency showed huge plumes of billowing grey
smoke rising into the sky above the factory, with orange flames inside the
building. Dozens of fire engines were seen outside.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol issued emergency instructions to
authorities, telling them to "mobilise all available personnel and equipment
to focus on searching for and rescuing people," his office said.

The president also warned authorities that they should "ensure the safety of
fire fighters considering the rapid spread of fire".

Firefighting and rescue efforts were ongoing, and the cause of the fire was

Authorities in Hwaseong city sent out a series of alerts to residents warning
them to stay inside.

"There is a lot of smoke due to factory fires. Please pay attention to
safety, such as refraining from going out," one alert sent by text message

"Factory fire. Please detour to surrounding roads and nearby citizens please
close windows," another one read.

South Korea is a major producer of batteries, including those used in
electric vehicles.

Its battery makers supply EV makers around the world, including Tesla.

South Korea is also one of the world's largest producers of high-end
semiconductors, and the government has invested heavily in key technologies
including displays and batteries.