|A fire broke out at Hyundai Premium Outlets in Daejeon's Yuseong District on Monday morning before its opening. Fire trucks from the city and neighboring municipalities are gathered in the parking lot in front of the mall. Yonhap|
By Ko Dong-hwan
A fire broke out at a mall in Daejeon Monday morning, killing at least seven people and injuring one as they were working at an underground level.
The fire started in the basement of Hyundai Premium Outlets near an unloading area at about 7:45 a.m., according to witnesses. One witness said black smoke started to rise from one end of the unloading area and moved towards him. The fire was reportedly started by an electric vehicle being charged in the basement.
The fire started before the mall in the city's Yuseong District opened for business, resulting in no casualties among shoppers. The only victims were employees of the mall in delivery, cleanup and fire prevention as well as one unidentified person. Three of them were initially taken to a hospital, two of whom died while being treated. At about 2:30 p.m., two more workers were found dead inside the mall. A few hours later, three more were discovered dead.
|Firefighters put out a fire in a mall in Daejeon on Monday. Courtesy of National Fire Agency|
The city fire department, together with nine emergency rescue teams from cities and provinces near Daejeon ― including Sejong and South and North Chungcheong and North Jeolla provinces ― joined the search for the missing workers. Some 126 firefighters with 40 fire trucks responded to the scene. A large amount of boxes stored in the basement level that caught fire generated a massive amount of smoke quickly, complicating the rescue efforts.
Some two hours after the fire started, Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min publicly ordered local fire departments to use all available assets to quench the fire and rescue the missing people. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo's office followed up with a statement.
The fire was completely extinguished after 3 p.m. The firefighters began removing smoke from inside the mall and lowering the temperature using specially designed vehicles to search for the workers who remained missing.
The fire prompted the evacuation of around 110 people in a hotel and other buildings that are connected to the mall.
|A photograph taken by a witness shows the fire starting in the mall's basement on Monday morning. Yonhap|
The chief of Yuseong Police Station commanded a field investigation of the site. He said he will work with the National Forensic Service to find out exactly what caused the fire.
Opened in June 2020, the nine-story shopping complex sits on a 130,000-square-meter piece of land and contains around 280 shops, a 100-room hotel, convention center and a theater. According to police, the mall fixed problems last June that had been pointed out by a private agency that inspected the facility's fire safety features.
Hyundai Department Store Group Chairman Chung Ji-sun visited the site and bowed to the public in apology. He said he bears responsibility for the incident and consoled the family members of the victims. He added that he will cooperate fully with the authorities investigating the incident.