Cig break causes basement blaze that torches scores of Mercs
The fire broke out on Aug. 11 when a Hyundai Starex caught fire in the second basement level of an apartment in Buldang-dong, South Chungcheong, at around 11:09 p.m, according to the Chungnam Fire Service Headquarter.
The van was owned by a car cleaning company, and the fire started when one of its employees, a man in his 30, was lighting a cigarette and a liquefied petroleum gas (LGP) cylinder in the vehicle exploded.
It took three hours to extinguish the blaze. No one was hurt, but more than 600 cars were damaged.
As of Wednesday afternoon, insurance claims had been filed on 536 cars with six insurers — Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance, DB Insurance, KB Insurance, Meritz Fire & Marine Insurance and Hanwha General Insurance.
Total damage could be more than 10 billion won as many luxury cars were involved in the fire. Of damaged cars, one-third are reported to be imported, and 100 were Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
The Starex itself was only insured to cover 100 million won of liability, according to multiple media outlets.
"People who have taken out their own damage insurance can ask their insurance companies for compensation, but those who do not have the insurance will request the compensation from the Starex driver who caused the fire," said a spokesperson from a major insurance company in Korea. "Some people don't take out the insurance because the fees are quite high."
About 390 firefighters and 50 vehicles were mobilized to extinguish the blaze. The Starex driver was taken to a nearby hospital immediately and treated for second-degree burns, while 14 apartment residents were treated for smoke inhalation.
The Chungnam Fire Service Headquarter, the Chungnam Provincial Police Agency, the National Forensic Service and the Korea Electrical Safety Corporation are jointly investigating the case to find out the exact cause of the fire.
BY SARAH CHEA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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