Lithium battery plant fire in South Korea kills at least 22

Fire authorities say blaze caused by battery cells exploding inside a warehouse.

A fire at a lithium battery plant in South Korea has killed at least 22 people and injured eight.

South Korean authorities said on Monday that they had recovered 22 bodies from the factory in Hwaseong, 45km (28 miles) south of Seoul, after earlier confirming that at least 16 workers had died in the blaze and three others were injured.

Eighteen Chinese workers and one Laotian were among the dead. The nationality of the remaining deceased worker was not yet confirmed, fire official Kim Jin-young said, citing information from company officials.

The fire broke out at the plant operated by South Korean battery maker Aricell at about 10:30am (01:30 GMT), before being brought under control shortly after 3pm (06:00 GMT), authorities said.

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Firefighter Kim earlier in the day told local media that more than 100 workers were believed to have been working at the site at the time of the fire and that some two dozen were unaccounted for.

Kim said the fire started when a number of battery cells exploded inside a warehouse.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office said he had ordered authorities to mobilise all available personnel and equipment “to focus on searching for and rescuing people”.

Authorities in Hwaseong issued a series of alerts advising the public to stay indoors and close their windows due to smoke from the blaze.

Lithium batteries, which are used in phones, laptops and electric vehicles, have been known to explode or catch fire due to a phenomenon known as thermal run, which can occur when they overheat or are punctured.

South Korea is a leading exporter of lithium batteries, hosting top industry players such as LG Energy Solution, Samsung SDI, and SK On.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies