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(6th LD) 10 killed, 100 injured in resort roof collapse

2014/02/18 11:03

SEOUL/GYEONGJU, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- Ten people were killed and more than 100 injured after a gymnasium packed with students at a resort town in the southern city of Gyeongju collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, according to government and police officials Tuesday.

Police said 565 incoming freshmen from the Busan University of Foreign Studies were having a welcoming party in the building at a mountain resort town in Gyeongju, 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, when the roof collapsed at around 9:06 p.m. Monday.

"Ten people are confirmed dead, two were seriously injured and 101 others sustained minor injuries," an official from the Ministry of Security and Public Administration told a press briefing in Seoul.

A Ministry of Security and Public Administration official informs a press briefing about a resort building collapse on Feb. 18, 2014. (Yonhap)

A Ministry of Security and Public Administration official informs a press briefing about a resort building collapse on Feb. 18, 2014. (Yonhap)

Nine of the dead were university students while the tenth fatality was a party organizer, police officers said, adding that two students unaccounted for after the collapse have been found safely.

The whereabouts of 11 other party organizers have not yet been confirmed, officers said, with a low possibility that they are still trapped under the debris.

"A rescue operation is still underway just in case," the ministry official said.

About 1,450 fire and police officials, and soldiers, backed by heavy equipment, worked overnight to clear the building debris and snowfall to reach the victims.

Local fire officials said they had difficulty arriving at the scene because the resort is located high in the mountains, and it was snowing on Monday night.

The heavy snow atop the roof could have caused the collapse, following recent massive snowfalls across the country, officials said, adding that they are not ruling out whether the building was an unauthorized structure that had failed to meet safety standards.

The gymnasium, also used as an auditorium, was a pre-engineered building that is assembled with rigid frames and side walls, the ministry official said. Buildings of this type are usually used for storage purpose.

The government, meanwhile, has set up a crisis center, officials said, adding that several ranking officials have been dispatched to the scene.

The party was part of an orientation program organized by the university students' council in the southern city of Busan, officers said. Many local university students travel out of town for such events, often staying in camps or resorts.

Chung Hae-lin, the president of the university, issued an apology, saying the school will assume all responsibilities for the affected students.

Rescue workers carry bodies out of a collapsed resort building in Gyeongju, southeastern South Korea, on Feb. 18, 2014. (Yonhap)

Rescue workers carry bodies out of a collapsed resort building in Gyeongju, southeastern South Korea, on Feb. 18, 2014. (Yonhap)

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