At least 20 patients and a nurse have been killed in a fire at a hospice for elderly people in South Korea.
It is the latest in a series of deadly disasters to hit the nation, still mourning more than 300 victims of a ferry sinking last month, most of them schoolchildren.
The blaze broke out shortly after midnight in southwestern Jangseong county, some 300 kilometres south of the capital Seoul. Toxic fumes claimed most victims’ lives.
“They were all bedridden patients who were unable to escape by themselves,” explained local fire chief Lee Min-ho.
“So despite the hospital’s initial rescue efforts, many people were sacrificed.”
Six people were critically injured in the blaze.
The medical facility held patients who required long-term care, many with dementia or disability as a result of a stroke, local media said.
An 81-year-old patient with dementia is reportedly being questioned on suspicion of arson after security camera footage showed him entering the area where the fire started.
Still in shock after its worst maritime disaster in 20 years, South Korea has suffered a series of tragedies.
A blaze at a large shopping mall complex killed eight people after smoke and toxic fumes spread rapidly on Monday. Fire screens designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke did not function in the relatively new building.
And there have been two subway accidents in the past month that have left nearly 200 people injured.