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Nearly 20 killed by fire in fitness, leisure complex

Nearly 20 killed by fire in fitness, leisure complex

"At least 15 of the dead were trapped in a second floor sauna, fire officials told reporters on the scene".

The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, expressed deep sorrow over the incident and urged officials to make "utmost efforts" to rescue any survivors, his office said. He said numerous casualties had been using the public bath on the second and third floors, which made it harder for them to escape.

Fire department officials said it likely began at the building's parking lot.

Television footage showed the building consumed by flames and issuing dark plumes of smoke, as several people stood waiting to be rescued from an outdoor terrace.

Dramatic photos show people being forced to jump from the upper levels of the eight-storey fitness complex in Jecheon to escape the raging inferno.

The fire station official said most of the victims were found in the sauna, and the main cause of death was suffocation rather than burns.

Some were seen jumping from the building onto air mattresses laid out on the ground as dozens of fire trucks and more than 100 firefighters rushed to the scene. The number of casualties is feared to rise as firefighters are searching the building. The blaze has nearly been extinguished, leaving firefighters the task of searching for any more victims.

The Olympic torch relay, which was due to pass through Jecheon Friday, has been canceled in the wake of the fire, according to the Jecheon city website.

The gym is located around 169km or 104 miles away from Seoul, South Korea's capital.

'We made a decision to cancel the event to mourn the victims, ' an unnamed official at the organising committee was quoted as saying.


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