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Fire at lithium battery factory kills at least 22 in South Korea

By Gawon Bae and Yoonjung Seo, CNN

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — A fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea Monday killed at least 22 people, most of them foreign nationals, local officials said.

The blaze broke out at around 10:31 a.m. local time at a facility operated by battery maker Aricell in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, about 50 kilometers southwest of Seoul.

It was extinguished around 3:10 p.m, and firefighters were able to enter the factory, said Hwaseong Fire Department official Kim Jin-young in a briefing.

Among the dead, two were Koreans and 20 were foreigners, the majority of whom were Chinese nationals, Kim added in a later briefing.

Rescue workers recovered a number of burned bodies, Kim said, and one person died due to cardiac arrest.

At least two people were seriously injured with burns and five suffered minor injuries, Kim said.

The factory’s worker’s directory was burned, making the victim identification process difficult, Kim added.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered the Interior and Safety Ministry and the head of the fire department to “make all-out efforts” to rescue people by “mobilizing all available personnel and equipment.”

Lithium-ion batteries are found in many popular consumer products, powering laptops, cameras, smartphones and electric vehicles. But a combination of manufacturer issues, misuse and aging batteries can heighten the risk from the batteries, which use flammable materials.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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