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Fire breaks out at doss houses in central Seoul

Posted February. 19, 2014 05:17,   


A commercial building in front of the Supogyo Bridge along the Cheonggyecheon road in central Seoul was on fire on Monday, causing two deaths. This old building built in the 1950s has been warned of fire risk several times, but such warnings have been neglected because of other tangled issues such as land ownership.

The fire started on the second floor of the building at 10:07 p.m. on Monday and was extinguished in about an hour. 18 stores on the first floor and 12 doss houses on the second floor were burned. An 88-year-old man identified by his surname Chu and an 80-year-old woman identified by her surname Jeon have died and six other people have been hospitalized for inhaling smoke. Witnesses said that Jeon set the fire by mistake when she was changing coal briquettes for heating. Residents of the building have been evacuated to a nearby shelter prepared by the district office.

The building as well as the land is owned by the Taiwanese government. The government built it for Chinese Koreans in 1951. After Chinese Koreans left the building, underprivileged people have settled in the building. Since the building is mostly made of wood and slate, the risk of fire has been pointed out numerous times. In fact, small fires broke out three to four times. Nevertheless, there were no fire protection system in place except for extinguishers in rooms and fire alarms installed by the fire station.

The Jung-gu district office said, “(The district) has designated (the building) as a facility vulnerable to disasters, conducted safety inspection and ordered safety actions since 2003. But the Taipei Mission in Korea has not taken any action.”