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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 15:38 GMT
South Korea fire toll rises to 40
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a warehouse in Icheon, South Korea (07/01/2008)
Witnesses reported hearing loud bangs coming from the basement
Firefighters say 40 people are now believed to have died in a fire at a warehouse in South Korea.

Hundreds of firefighters were involved in the operation at Icheon, 80km (50 miles) south of Seoul.

A local fire official told the Associated Press that rescuers were not expecting to find any more bodies.

The cause of the fire has not been determined but witnesses reported hearing loud explosions coming from the basement of the building.

Kim Jung-keun of the Icheon fire department said he believed inflammable vapours from materials being used by the workers may been ignited by a spark.

"The blaze triggered a chain of explosions, gutting the basement quickly," he told AFP news agency.

Map

Senior fire department official Choi Jin-jong told Korea's Yonhap news agency that the explosions had destroyed the firefighting equipment in the basement, making it harder to tackle the blaze.

Firefighting efforts were also hampered by thick, toxic smoke coming from the basement.

A local restaurateur told Yonhap: "There were loud bangs, flames shot up and one seriously burned woman ran into my restaurant crying for help."

Ten people were taken to hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.

Yonhap reported that 57 people were in the building, a newly built cold storage facility, when the fire broke out.

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