413 tall buildings fail fire check

  • Published : Nov 18, 2010 - 20:08
  • Updated : Nov 18, 2010 - 20:08
More than 400 highrise buildings in Korea have been found to be vulnerable to fire accidents in an inspection carried out in the wake of a blaze that destroyed luxury apartments last month.

Among the 4,955 buildings of 11 stories or more that were inspected, 413, or 8.3 percent, were insufficiently prepared against fire, according to the data submitted by the National Emergency Management Agency to the National Assembly.
Smoke billows from a 38story apartment building in a fire in Busan last month. (Korea Herald file photo)

NEMA organized a special task force of 2,135 fire, gas, electricity and architecture experts and carried out an unprecedented safety inspection on the firefighting facilities of highrise buildings across the country.

Over 20 percent of the buildings checked in Incheon, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang Province had damaged sprinklers or were otherwise inadequately protected against fire.

In North Chungcheong Province, five of the eight buildings inspected were not properly protected and in Busan 19.6 percent of buildings failed to meet requirements.

Seoul, in which 2,543 tall buildings were looked at, was found to be relatively safe with only 21, or 0.8 percent, failing to meet the standards, said officials.

The agency also detected 95 safety law violations such as converting safety zones to lounges.

In eight cases, the corresponding building owner was fined for blocking emergency exits without approval.

The monthlong inspection and reinforced corrective measures followed the devastating fire which ravaged Wooshin Golden Suites, a pair of luxurious 38story apartment buildings in Busan.

Though the fire did not hurt or kill any of the residents, it raised concerns over fire safety, especially in highrise buildings without a proper alarm and evacuation system.

The number of fires in highrise buildings rose from 2,399 in 2007 to 2,592 in 2008, and dropped to 2,410 last year, according to NEMA.

The resulting financial losses in the period were 20.8 billion won ($18 million) and 86 were killed and 555 injured in the fires.

Earlier this week, a large fire engulfed a highrise apartment building in Shanghai, China, killing 53 and injuring 70.

The Chinese government arrested eight welders who are thought to have caused the fire through negligence while working in the building the day before the fire.

The case nevertheless left concerns that its city skyscrapers were vulnerable to sudden fire or electrical accidents.

By Bae Hyunjung (