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Tragic fire at South Korean lithium battery plant claims 23 lives

A tragic fire at Aricell’s lithium battery plant in Hwaseong, South Korea, resulted in the deaths of 23 workers, including seventeen Chinese nationals, one Laotian, and several South Koreans. Local authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.



Tragic fire at South Korean lithium battery plant claims 23 lives

HWASEONG, SOUTH KOREA: A devastating fire broke out at a primary lithium battery manufacturing plant in Hwaseong, south of Seoul, on Monday (24 June), killing at least 23 workers.

The plant is operated by South Korea-based Aricell, majority-owned by S-Connect (096630.KQ).

Established in 2020, Aricell manufactures lithium primary batteries for sensors and radio communication devices.

Among the deceased, seventeen were Chinese nationals, one was Laotian, and the rest were South Koreans.

Most of the victims were temporary workers at the plant.

The fire started at approximately 10:30 a.m. in a factory containing 35,000 lithium batteries.

The blaze produced thick smoke that spread rapidly. Fire officials stated that workers inside the second-floor location likely lost consciousness and succumbed within seconds.

The fire continued to spread as the battery cells inside exploded continuously, hindering rescue efforts.

Firefighters managed to control the main fire by around 3:10 p.m. and began searching for missing persons.

By Tuesday (25 June), search teams, including firefighters with search dogs, combed through the gutted structure and found the last person who had been unaccounted for, raising the death toll to 23.

Video footage from inside the factory showed sparks and white smoke followed by multiple explosions from piles of batteries.

Workers attempted to contain the flames with extinguishers but were unsuccessful as the factory room quickly filled with smoke.

Aricell CEO Park Soon-kwan expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and apologized to everyone affected by the accident.

“We will be conscientiously taking part in the investigation by authorities and will do our best to determine the cause of the accident and to take measures to prevent a repeat of such an accident,” Park stated.

The government has convened an emergency meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters to discuss measures to minimize casualties.

At the meeting, Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min urged all relevant government agencies and local governments to mobilize available resources and personnel to extinguish the fire and rescue survivors.

President Yoon Suk Yeol also urged Minister Lee to make all possible efforts to search for and rescue the missing by mobilizing all available manpower and equipment.

Authorities, including the National Forensic Service, police, and the fire department, have begun a joint investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

Three Aricell officials booked for safety violations following deadly fire

Three officials at lithium battery maker Aricell were booked on Wednesday (26 June) for allegedly violating industrial safety laws.

The labour ministry’s special investigation team announced that the government has ordered Aricell to completely suspend operations at its gutted plant in Hwaseong, effective from 9 a.m. Wednesday (26 June).

The three Aricell officials are suspected of violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Serious Accidents Punishment Act, stated Min Gil-soo, head of the ministry’s investigation team.

Min emphasized that they may face punishment if any violations are confirmed through a prompt and thorough investigation.

In response to the tragic incident, the ministry has also directed approximately 500 battery manufacturing facilities nationwide to conduct emergency safety inspections to prevent similar accidents, Min added.

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