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Battery site fire raises alarm on chemical facility risks

June 25, 2024 - 10:30 By Korea Herald

Firefighters retrieve the bodies of workers at the site of a fire at a primary lithium battery factory in Hwaseong, 45 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 24, 2024. The fire left at least 22 workers dead. (Yonhap)

Monday’s blaze at a lithium battery plant in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, has highlighted yet again the dangers associated with chemical processing facilities. A fire, once it breaks out, often results in significant casualties, due to the dense presence of flammable or combustible materials within a confined space.

The worst chemical factory fire to date occurred in 1989 at the Lucky Chemical plant at an industrial complex in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province. The blaze, triggered by a massive explosion, resulted in 16 fatalities and 17 injuries.

On Aug. 17, 2011, a steam explosion at the Hyundai EP's factory in Ulsan caused the deaths of three workers and injured five others. On Aug. 27 of the same year, a chemical substance called hexane exploded at TK Chemical in Gongju, North Gyeongsang Province, killing seven people.

On Aug. 23, 2022, eight people were killed and about 10 injured when a large drum containing dioxin exploded at an LG Chemical plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province.

A 2013 fire at Daelim Industries’ factory in Yeosu, which killed six people and seriously injured 11 others, was also caused by an explosion that occurred in a silo that stored raw materials for polyethylene.

More recently in 2021, a fire at Eil Industrials’ petrochemical product manufacturing plant in Yeosu claimed the lives of three workers. The fire also started with an explosion from a tank containing liquid chemicals.

On Sept. 30, 2022, a blast at the Yeochun NCC factory in Yeosu killed four people and injured four others.