At least 37 people are dead and dozens injured following a Friday morning fire that broke out in a hospital emergency room in Miryang, a town in southeastern South Korea.
Administrators at Sejong Hospital, the fire site, said one doctor, one nurse and one nurse's assistant were among the casualties. He further said that some 80 percent of the fatalities were elderly patients.
"I am truly sorry. I am sorry for the patients and their caretakers," said Seok Jeong-sik, the director of Sejong Hospital.
The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, convened an emergency meeting at the Blue House and called on the government to take "all necessary measures" to help survivors.
Sejong Hospital is a relatively small healthcare facility and the number of patients inside when the fire broke out totaled 177, according to the hospital director.
The local fire chief told reporters that the fire spread through the central staircase connecting all the floors from the ground level, and that firefighters contained the flames at the second floor.
Patients were moved to nearby facilities, but dozens died after reaching other hospitals, the local fire chief said.
"Inpatients at this hospital were mostly in ICU or elderly," Miryang Fire chief Choi Man-woo said. "Many of them suffered from respiratory disorders, which could have made them especially susceptible to the fire."
He says most victims died from suffocation.
An investigation is under way.
This fatal fire comes just a month after a fire in a sports center building that killed 29 people and led to criminal charges for negligence by the building's owners.
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