Tuesday , July 23 2024

Helpless against lithium battery explosions… Hwaseong factory fire kills 22 people

I was helpless. In the face of a new type of disaster called the “lithium battery factory fire”, the fire department did not have any sharp countermeasures other than “preventing the second spread” and “reactive control”.

Fire update

In the meantime, more than twenty workers were swept away by the flames. The suppression manuals created by the fire authorities for special types of fires such as “metal fires” were helpless in saving the lives of those who were trapped in fire pits and were dying.

On the morning of the 24th, a fire broke out at the lithium battery manufacturing plant ‘Aricell’ in Seosin-myeon, Hwaseong-si, Gyeonggi-do, resulting in a large-scale disaster in which 22 people died and 8 were injured. Due to the nature of lithium, which cannot be extinguished by conventional methods such as spraying water or carbon dioxide once a fire is ignited, the fire department had to wait for the fire to be extinguished “naturally” by building a fire line to prevent the fire from spreading to the surrounding area after failing to extinguish the fire in the first place.

The fire started around 10:31 a.m. in the finished battery inspection building northwest of the plant. The exact cause of the fire has not been determined, but “we have obtained a statement from a worker at the scene that one of the battery cells was burning explosively,” fire officials said. When the fire broke out, the fire department issued the second stage of the response and dispatched 145 firefighting personnel, including firefighters, and 50 pump trucks and other equipment to the scene. Kim Jin-young, head of the disaster prevention division at the Hwaseong Fire Station, said, “When the first batch of firefighters arrived, the battery cells inside the factory exploded continuously, causing the fire to spread rapidly, making it difficult to extinguish the fire.”

The factory is a manufacturer of lithium batteries and the delivery of finished products, and it is said that more than 35,000 cylindrical lithium batteries were stored in the three-story steel structure building (total floor area of about 2,300 square meters) where the fire broke out. The firefighters who arrived at the scene prepared dry sand and expanded nitrogen needed to extinguish the lithium fire, but the flames were so intense that they could not enter the interior for nearly four hours after arriving at the scene, focusing only on preventing the spread of the flames. The fire was extinguished by 3:10 p.m., four hours and 40 minutes after the fire started.

After the flames subsided around 3 p.m., rescuers who tried to enter the scene found 21 bodies of the missing people burned to death on the second floor of the building. One person who died earlier was pronounced dead at the hospital after being found in cardiac arrest at the scene shortly after the fire. Fire authorities believe that the victims found inside the factory were unable to evacuate as the fire that started at the entrance and spread explosively in a short period of time.

Most of the victims were foreigners, 18 Chinese and one Lao. There were two Koreans. They were reportedly huddled in a southwest corner of the second floor of the building. An official from the fire department said, “There are two emergency stairs leading to the outside of the building, but it seems that they were unable to escape (due to the sudden spread of the flames).”

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ondol@yna.co.kr/2024-06-24 19:56:18/

According to the ‘Standard Operating Procedures for Disaster Scenes’ prepared by the Fire Agency in 2023, “Combustible metals (such as lithium) have the potential to explode if the powder is suspended in the air, cannot be extinguished by water, foam, halogen agents, or carbon dioxide fire extinguishers, and even after suppression, they remain in a high-temperature ignition state for a long time, so care must be taken to re-ignite them through contact with water.”





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