The blaze occurred at around 9 a.m. at the property’s underground food court ― owned by local conglomerate CJ Foodville ― which was under construction. Officials suspect that the fire was triggered by welding work at the site.
According to Goyang Fire Station, the fire was brought under control within about 20 minutes.
“We are not sure at this point if the construction worker who was doing the welding work was injured,” said Ha Jong-keun from Gyeonggi Province Fire and Disaster Headquarters.
“We suspect that there was liquefied natural gas at the construction site, and sparks from the workers’ welding work and the gas together caused the disaster.”
|Firefighters carry an injured person after a fire broke out at the Goyang Bus Terminal in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
Most of the injured were found in the terminal’s public bathroom, which is located near the construction site, the police said.
Some 40 people were sent to hospitals throughout the city, including Myongji Hospital and Inje University Ilsan Park Hospital, for smoke inhalation and burn injuries. At least three are in critical condition, officials said. Three were sent home.
“Among the seven people who were severely injured this morning, five died, and two survived after receiving CPR at the hospital,” said Ha on Monday afternoon.
“But among the two who survived, one died soon after and the other later. So for now, seven have been confirmed dead. But the number of victims may rise because a number of patients are in critical condition.”
Officials suspect that all of the seven victims were killed by smoke inhalation, not burns.
“But only an autopsy will tell us the exact cause of their deaths,” Ha told The Korea Herald.
Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency is currently investigating two workers from the site to find out the exact cause of the fire. “The gas was the main fuel for cooking and it wasn’t being used for the construction,” said Han Sang-gu from the agency. “We are still looking into the case to figure out if there were any safety violations.”
Hundreds were reportedly in the building when the blaze occurred.
Subway operations to Baekseok Station on Line No. 3, located near the scene of the accident, were resumed at 10:24 a.m. after trains temporarily bypassed the station shortly after the blaze broke out.
Established in 2012, the five-story property houses a movie theater, a shopping mall and a supermarket, aside from the terminal. Some 250 intercity buses operate out of the terminal.
The fire came just a week after President Park Geun-hye offered her apology for the government’s poor handling of the sinking of the ferry Sewol, which last month left more than 300 dead or missing. During her emotional apology speech, which was broadcast on national television, Park said she would establish a new state emergency agency to make Korea a safer place.
The property was built with 253.3 billion won ($247.5 million) borrowed from now-defunct savings banks, including Jeil and Ace. It was owned by the Korea Deposit insurance Corp. until being sold to Macquarie Investment Management in March.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport set up a temporary stop near Hwajung Terminal, which is about 5 kilometers from Goyang Bus Terminal, for passengers in the area.
A total of 19 routes out of 30 that pass Goyang Bus Terminal also stop at Hwajung, the ministry said.
“There will be two buses that will carry passengers from Goyang to Hwajung and vice versa for those who need to take the remaining 11 routes,” said the ministry’s officials.
By Claire Lee (email@example.com)