A pre-dawn fire swept through a nursing home in South Korea on Friday, killing 10 people too old to flee the flames and smoke, officials said. Another 17 people aged between 71 and 90 were injured in the fire at the two-storey building in the southeastern city of Pohang.
"The dead were all old women who could barely move unassisted," a spokesman at the fire station in the city's Nambu district told AFP.
The ground floor of the two-storey glass and cement structure, where all the fatalities occurred, was gutted. Most were suffocated by smoke, a Pohang police spokesman said.
Twenty trucks and 200 firefighters were sent to the blaze, which was brought under control after about 30 minutes. An investigation into the cause was under way but police suspect an electrical fault, according to the spokesman.
"I saw the fire raging when I woke up and went out to check a light that I had noticed," a janitor identified only by her surname Choi told Yonhap news agency. The 17 injured were moved to four hospitals in the city. At the time of the blaze the home was staffed by two managers, one for each floor, Yonhap said.
The structure, built in 1973, was opened as a nursing home in January 2007. Its insurance coverage would provide up to 100 million won (85,000 dollars) to each victim, Yonhap quoted a provincial government official as saying. President Lee Myung-Bak, who is hosting a G20 summit of world leaders in Seoul, expressed sadness at the tragedy.
His spokeswoman Kim Hee-Jung said Lee received a report on the fire before heading to the summit venue. He instructed Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Sik to coordinate the government's response.