Fire at a Lithium Battery Plant in South Korea Kills 22 Workers
Fire at a Lithium Battery Plant in South Korea Kills 22 Workers

Fire at a Lithium Battery Plant in South Korea Kills 22 Workers

June 25, 2024
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The tragic incident unfolded at the Aricell lithium battery factory in Hwaseong City, a bustling industrial hub southwest of Seoul. Established in 2020, Aricell specializes in manufacturing lithium primary batteries for sensors and radio communication devices and employs more than 100 people. On Monday, a devastating fire, accompanied by a series of explosions, ripped through the facility, resulting in the deaths of more than 22 individuals.

Kim Jin-young, an official from the Hwaseong Fire Service, provided updates to the press. Among the deceased were 18 Chinese workers, two South Koreans, and one Laotian, while the nationality of one other victim remains unconfirmed. Two people are currently being treated for major burns. The factory was left in ruins as rescue workers tirelessly combed through the debris, ultimately retrieving the bodies of the victims.

The Cause of Fire and High Fatality Rate

Gyeonggi province fire official Cho Sun-ho stated that the victims likely succumbed to extremely toxic gas within 15 seconds of the blaze getting out of control. Most of the foreign workers killed were temporary hires, likely unfamiliar with the building’s structure. The cause of the explosions remains unclear, and the fire was largely extinguished after about six hours. A Fire and Disaster Prevention expert from Daejeon University explained, “Battery materials such as nickel are easily flammable. So often, there is not enough time to respond, compared to a fire caused by other materials.”

Authorities’ Response to Accident

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the accident scene later Monday. He ordered authorities to mobilise all available personnel and equipment “to focus on searching for and rescuing people.” Interior Minister Lee Sang-min urged local authorities to advise residents to stay indoors and close their windows to prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry requested that South Korea determine the cause of the accident as soon as possible, make every effort to save and treat the injured, properly arrange care for those affected, and assist the families of the deceased Chinese nationals. A labour ministry official told Reuters they are investigating whether Aricell complied with safety regulations and provided adequate training for temporary foreign workers. regulations are subject to criminal prosecution, the official said, requesting anonymity.

The incident has raised serious concerns about the safety of lithium batteries, which are known to pose fire risks under certain conditions. This tragic event underscores the urgent need for South Korea to ensure the safety and basic rights of foreign workers, especially in a country experiencing rapid ageing and relying heavily on foreign labour. It also highlights the importance of improving response mechanisms and emergency management to protect foreign workers in similar situations.

Given the difficulty of extinguishing fires caused by battery explosions and the potential for secondary hazards, experts warn that this incident should serve as a wake-up call for all countries, not just South Korea. It is imperative for nations to properly address the safety risks associated with industries involving lithium batteries. Prioritising employee protection and implementing effective post-accident protocols is essential to prevent future tragedies and ensure the well-being of all workers.

Read More: 3 Electric Buses Catch Fire at Ahmedabad Depot

The post Fire at a Lithium Battery Plant in South Korea Kills 22 Workers appeared first on E-Vehicle Info.

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