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Little Progress Made in Finding Cause of Busan Fire

Posted November. 17, 2009 08:41,   


Busan police have made little progress in their investigation into what caused the deadly fire Saturday at a shooting range.

Fears are rising that the investigation, which is also related to diplomatic issues with Japan, will take longer.

The Busan Jungbu Police Department, in charge of the probe, said yesterday, “We’re analyzing evidence collected by two field investigations, but we haven’t found yet the flammable materials that are considered to have started the fire.”

“Some witnesses say they heard a loud bang. We’re investigating whether the sound was the root cause of the fire or it was heard after some flammable substances ignited in the fire. We have faced difficulty since those who stayed at the shooting range when the fire occurred are in serious condition and water has formed a pool at the place.”

Police plan to conduct their third field investigation today.

Some say the fire was caused by a cigarette or gunpowder. It is possible that gunpowder that had been gathered in a vacuum for months caught fire or that a cigarette thrown away by a tourist caused the fire. To check for signs of arson, police have questioned customers of the shooting range and watched security video footage taken over the past month by seven closed-circuit televisions.

Police initially announced that eight Japanese tourists were killed in the blaze. In the process of identifying the bodies, however, one of the deceased turned out to Korean national Lee Jong-in, manager of the shooting range.

Japanese national Kazunobu Nakao, who had been thought dead, is instead hospitalized at Hana Hospital. Accordingly, seven Japanese and three Koreans were killed in the blaze and four Japanese and two Koreans were injured.

A police source said, “We conducted DNA tests to identify 10 bodies. The results will be announced between Wednesday and Thursday.”

Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital, where the 10 bodies were sent, obtained consent from the relatives of the Japanese victims and performed autopsies on seven bodies. Initially, the bereaved Japanese relatives wanted to bring the coffins to Japan since the victims died of suffocation.

Prosecutors, however, persuaded them to approve the autopsies, with one saying, “We have to perform autopsies to determine the cause of death and the cause of the fire.”

The bereaved relatives of the Korean victims, however, complained that the Japanese victims are getting all of the attention. One said, “The government only pays attention to Japanese. Koreans seem to be treated unkindly. We have to perform funeral services, but nobody has mentioned treatment or compensation.”

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