Fire: from electrical defect

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Fire: from electrical defect

Police officials said yesterday they believe that a defect in the electrical system caused the massive fire that engulfed a 38-floor luxury residential building in Busan near Haeundae Beach on Friday.

The police confirmed at a press conference yesterday that the fire broke out in a piping room on the fourth floor of the Wooshin Golden Suites and the presence of many wires in the room could have caused the blaze. A witness heard a loud noise in the room and saw fire and smoke immediately afterward.

“We will figure out the exact cause of the fire with the help of experts,” said Noh Sang-hwan, a Busan police detective.

The Haeundae Station police chief has formed eight teams to investigate the fire. The police will start taking testimony today about the fire, which started about 11:30 a.m. on Friday, according to police.

Police said the room in which the fire started was intended to be used only as a piping room and was prohibited from being used for any other purpose. But the room apparently was also used as a dressing room for the cleaning staff and for garbage storage. Police said they will conduct an investigation into the use of the room.

Starting on the fourth floor, the blaze spread quickly through the ventilation shafts and along the highly flammable exterior walls of the structure, which contains 202 residences. Within 20 minutes, the fire reached the tower’s rooftop. Thirty-eight residents were rescued; a firefighter and four residents were injured.

Residents said they believe an inadequate security system delayed the evacuation. They said they heard no alarm bells nor were emergency directives issued until firefighters arrived and let people know about the disaster.

Residents also said security officers of the building offered bad advice when residents called for help, saying they were told to “stay in the building if you cannot escape.”

Victims also said the facility needs to have self-contained electronics units. Sprinklers on other floors operated when the fire started, police said.

Despite the problems, there were no casualties. Police said fire walls on each floor blocked smoke and toxic gases from entering interior facilities.

“If flames had entered interior rooms, it would have been a massive disaster,” a fire official said.

Police also said most residents were not in the building, which helped prevent more casualties.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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