Joint investigation launched into shopping mall fire in Daejeon

A firefighter stands at the entrance to the Hyundai Premium Outlet underground car park in Daejeon on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Police and firefighters on Tuesday opened a joint investigation with the National Forensic Service into the fire at the Hyundai Premium Outlet in Daejeon, which killed seven people.

A joint investigation team of around 40 members will try to determine how the fire started from the basement parking lot early Monday morning.

The team will check CCTV footage which shows the cargo handling area where the fire started to spread. The fire currently appears to have broken out near a one-ton truck from which a driver was unloading packages.

The probe will also check if the smoke extraction system and sprinklers have worked properly. Hyundai Premium Outlet officials testified that there was water on the floor of the basement parking lot.

The investigation team will also check whether the company has made the improvements that were asked of it during a fire safety inspection in June. During the inspection, a local fire department asked the company to check the fire detection system in the basement parking lot, as well as the fire alarm and evacuation lighting systems. close to shops.

The Ministry of Employment and Labour, meanwhile, will consider whether the company should be punished under the Serious Accident Prevention Act. Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik visited the mall around 9 p.m. Monday and ordered the ministry to investigate whether the company had violated the Occupational Safety and Health Law. and to check whether the law on the repression of serious accidents applies to the incident which left seven dead and one injured.

If the Serious Accident Prevention Act is enforced, Hyundai Department Store Group will become the first local retailer to be penalized under the law.

The law targets companies with more than 50 employees. Under the law, owners or management of a business can be held liable and face a criminal penalty of at least one year’s imprisonment or fines of up to 1 billion won (700 $377) for fatal industrial accidents if safety measures are deemed insufficient.

On Monday, Chung Ji-sun, chairman of Hyundai Department Store Group, which operates the mall, attended the scene of the fire and apologized.

The Hyundai Premium Outlet fire reportedly started at 7.45am in its basement car park and quickly spread through boxes and clothing, sending smoke filling the floor.

More than 126 firefighters and 40 pieces of equipment were dispatched to the scene and managed to prevent the fire from spreading to other floors.

The fire, however, left seven dead and one seriously injured before being completely extinguished around 3 p.m. The victims were delivery workers, cleaners and disaster prevention workers. No customers had been there since the fire broke out before the mall was open.

Some 110 people, who were staying in nearby accommodation buildings, and other staff were evacuated after the fire broke out.

Hyundai Premium Outlet in Daejeon is a seven-storey shopping mall with two underground levels, covering some 130,000 square meters. The mall opened in June 2000.

By Shim Woo-hyun ([email protected])

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