Monday, December 22, 2014   

SKorea hospice fire kills 21
(05-28 10:56)

A fire swept through a South Korean hospice for elderly, infirm patients early Wednesday, killing 21 people in what police said appeared to be an act of arson by an 81-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer.
Seven were injured in the blaze, which broke out shortly after midnight at the hospice in Jangseong county about 190 miles south of Seoul.
The facility cared for close to 80 chronically ill, largely bedridden patients, including stroke victims and many in the advanced stages of senility.
It was the latest in a series of fatal incidents following last month's ferry disaster that claimed the lives of around 250 schoolchildren.
A police official in Jangseong said an 81-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer's had been taken into custody after CCTV footage appeared to show him setting the fire in a storage room on the upper floor of the two-story building.
Although the blaze was brought under control within 30 minutes, many on the upper floor were unable to evacuate as the rooms filled with thick, acrid smoke.
"Most of them died as the result of smoke inhalation,'' a fire official told AFP by telephone from Jangseong,
One of three nurses on duty at the time died as she tried to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher.
It was the second deadly blaze in two days after seven people were killed and 41 injured in a fire at a bus terminal near Seoul on Monday.
The country is still reeling from the trauma of the April 16 Sewol ferry tragedy, which killed around 300 people -- most of them high school students.
The Sewol disaster triggered a heated national debate as to whether South Korea's rapid economic development has come at the expense of basic safety standards -- particularly for those most vulnerable or at risk. --AFP   
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