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Seoul battery plant fire kills 22 people

TOKYO, June 24 (KUNA) -- At least 22 people, including 20 foreign nationals, were confirmed dead in a lithium battery plant fire in a city south of Seoul on Monday, Yonhap News agency reported, citing fire authorities.
The death toll could rise further as one went missing while being out of contact, according to the authorities.
As of 6:30 p.m. (0930 GMT), 22 workers had been killed, with two seriously injured, they said. Among those confirmed killed, 20 are foreigners -- 18 Chinese nationals, one Laotian and another whose nationality is not known.
The blaze started at lithium battery maker Aricell's plant in Hwaseong, 45 km south of Seoul, at around 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT), and the main fire was under control after nearly five hours.
President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the site of the fire and ordered government officials to draw up measures to prevent similar accidents from occurring, his office said. The fire reportedly occurred for unknown reasons at the three-story, reinforced concrete building with a total floor space of about 2,300 square meters.
The station said the fire spread rapidly as the battery cells inside exploded continuously, making it difficult for rescuers to go inside and search, the report said, adding that at least 35,000 batteries are believed to be inside the plant. (end) mk.mt