Lithium battery explosion causes deadly fire at factory

Several workers in South Korea have been killed in a massive factory fire caused by an exploding lithium battery.

The fire broke out on Monday morning at the Aricel factory in Hwaseong city, about 45 kilometers south of the capital Seoul.

Local television footage showed small explosions as firefighters battled the blaze and part of the roof collapsed.

South Korea is a major producer of lithium batteries, which are used in many products from electric cars to laptops.

Reuters reported, citing fire officials, that at least 16 people have been killed in the blaze so far, but the final death toll could be much higher. Yonhap News Agency said about 20 bodies had been found.

An estimated 35,000 battery cells were stored on the second floor of the Aricell factory, where the batteries were inspected and packaged, with many more stored elsewhere.

Local fire official Kim Jin-young said the fire started when a series of battery cells exploded, but it was unclear what caused the initial blast.

At the time, there were about 100 workers on the site.

Kim said it was initially difficult to enter the site due to “fears of further explosions.”

Lithium fires react violently with water, so firefighters had to use dry sand to put out the blaze, which took several hours to put out.

Lithium batteries pose a risk of exploding if damaged or overheated. The fire may be extinguished, but the chemical reaction could lead to a re-ignition without warning.

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