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Three children die in apartment fire in Seoul

Mar 06,2020
Three children were killed in Seoul after a fire broke out in their grandmother’s apartment, where they were staying because of school closures related to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Gangdong District fire station and police precinct, the fire started at 3 p.m. in one of two units on the third floor.

A resident living in the fourth floor of the apartment dialed emergency services which dispatched a total of 23 fire trucks and 84 firefighters.

The three children, two aged 4 and one aged 7, were discovered in the living room of the apartment which is believed to be where the fire started. They had suffered second- and third-degree burns and were pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

Two of the victims were sisters, while the third was their cousin. The mother of the two sisters had left her children in their grandmother’s care because the family was moving houses. The grandmother was not in the house at the time of the fire.

When the mother heard about the fire, she quickly returned to the scene.

One witness to the fire, surnamed Park, said, “When the firefighters were about to enter the building - a lady, who from the conversations I assume was the mother to the two sisters - begged them please save her children.”

The police say it is too early to draw decisive conclusions, and they are still investigating potential causes of the fire.

However, from the testimonies of the bereaved family, the police surmised that “it is likely that an electric heater had been knocked over.”

Gong Ha-sung, a professor of the Fire and Disaster Prevention Department at Woosuk University added to the police’s suspicions.

“Heaters are usually equipped with safety functions that automatically turn off the heater when it is knocked over,” Gang said. “But there are still cases where surrounding areas directly in contact with the heat can catch fire.”

Other residents of the apartment said that before the fire, they had regularly seen the children in the apartment and figured that “they weren’t at the day care center as usual because of the coronavirus,” saying that “the family wouldn’t have had to leave the children at home alone if it wasn’t for the virus.”

BY KIM MIN-JOONG AND CHUNG HEE-YUN [lee.joongi@joongang.co.kr]