A blaze at a construction site southeast of Seoul killed 38 people on Wednesday in one of the deadliest fires to hit South Korea in recent years, police officers and local news reports said.
With emergency workers still looking for one other person who may remain trapped inside a building filled with toxic smoke, they have so far found 38 bodies, Seo Seung-hyeon, a local fire department chief, said during a news briefing. Ten others were injured, including eight who were in serious condition, he said.
When the fire broke out, 78 workers were believed to be working in the four-story warehouse under construction in Icheon, 50 miles southeast of Seoul, the Fire Department said.
The blaze was the third devastating workplace fire to hit South Korea in recent years, and came as President Moon Jae-in has struggled to make good on his promise to put an end to the man-made disasters that have convulsed the country since a 2014 ferry sinking killed more than 300 people.
The Fire Department said it was investigating the cause of the blaze. But Mr. Seo said that investigators suspected that it was caused by an explosion in an underground level, where some workers used urethane, a combustible chemical used for insulation work.
Dozens of fire engines were sent to control the flames. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged his government to dedicate every available resource to rescue the workers believed to be trapped in the warehouse.
The fire was extinguished in three hours, but firefighters searching for the missing workers were hampered by toxic gas in the warehouse.
Photos and TV reports showed orange-red flames and black clouds of smoke engulfing the warehouse and responders bringing out bodies from the building on stretchers to ambulances outside.
The Yonhap news agency quoted a survivor as saying that the smoke filled the building so quickly that he could barely find his way out.