[Photo shows the collapsed building in Gyeongju, some 370 km southeast of Seoul, South Korea (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)]
SEOUL, (Xinhua): A resort building crashed down in the southeastern city of South Korea Monday night, killing 10 people, including nine college students, and injuring dozens of others, a senior official at the state-run emergency management agency said Tuesday.
“Ten people were confirmed dead, two were seriously injured and 16 others were slightly wounded,” Lee Jae-yeul, director general of the general adjustment team at South Korea’s National Emergency Management Agency, told reporters at a televised press conference.
Lee said that search and rescue operations were completed as of 2 p.m. local time Tuesday, around 17 hours after a gymnasium at the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, some 370 km southeast of Seoul, caved in at about 9:06 p.m. Monday.
When the gymnasium roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, more than 560 students of the Busan University of Foreign Studies (BUFS) were participating in a welcoming event for freshmen who came from the southern port city of Busan.
Among 10 confirmed dead, nine were students from the BUFS and one was an agent for the event organizing company. Two students and 11 event organizers, who had been out of contact and estimated to be trapped yet in the roof, were all accounted for.
The gymnasium roof caved in as the building was unable to withstand the weight of snow, according to estimates by police and fire authorities. Exact cause of the accident is being investigated by prosecutors and police.
The area where the collapse happened went through a heavy snowfall. Over the past week, the Gyeongju city and its surrounding area had about 50 cm of snow.
Neglect of safety management by the resort operator Kolon Corp. was determined as one of the potential causes of the deadly accident. The gymnasium, built as a pre-fabricated structure, has never received any safety check since the completion of its construction in 2009, according to local media reports.
Kolon Corp. Chairman Lee Woong-yeul told a televised press conference that heavy responsibility was felt for the deaths of young students, apologizing to the bereaved families. The Mauna Ocean Resort is operated by a unit of the Kolon Corp., which has a 50 percent stake in the resort operator.
Heavy snow and icy roads slowed rescue efforts. Rescuers had difficulties in reaching the scene as the building is located at the top of the mountain and snow laid thick on the ground. Most rescue workers had to walk several hundred meters through the slippery and narrow road to the scene.
According to the emergency management agency, a total of 1,448 rescuers, including fire and police officials and troops from nearby Marine Corps and Army units, were dispatched to the scene.
Editor: Liu Dan