SEOUL, South Korea — A fire at a construction site southeast of Seoul killed at least 8 people and left 14 missing on Wednesday, police officers and local news media reports said.
Firefighters were searching the gutted building for more bodies, raising fears that the death toll could rise. The South Korea news agency Yonhap put the death toll at 25, although local fire department officials could not immediately confirm that figure.
When the fire broke out, a total of 78 workers were believed to be working inside a four-story warehouse under construction in Incheon, 50 miles southeast of Seoul, the local fire department said.
The fire department said it was still investigating the cause of the fire. But local media reported that it began with an explosion in an underground level.
Dozens of fire engines were mobilized to control the flames. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged his government to dedicate every available resource to rescue the workers believed to have been trapped in the warehouse.
The fire was extinguished in three hours, but the firefighters searching for the missing workers were hampered by toxic gas in the warehouse.
Photos and TV reports showed responders bringing out bodies from the building on stretchers to ambulances waiting outside.
South Korea, which has seen strong economic growth in recent decades, has been prone to major disasters, despite its leaders’ repeated promises to make the country safer.