Killer blaze at Korean detention centre that also held Sri Lankan illegals

SEOUL, Feb 11, 2007 (AFP) – At least nine foreign migrants including eight Chinese were killed and 18 others hurt in a blaze early Sunday at a detention centre in the South Korean port of Yeosu, local officials said. “The Prime Minister instructed Justice Minister Kim Sung-Ho to examine all detention facilities for illegal immigrants and work out measures to prevent any recurrence,” it said. One Uzbek national was also among the dead in Yeosu, located 450 kilometres (280 miles) south of the capital Seoul.

“The death toll is likely to rise, as 17 of the 18 hurt are in serious condition. They are being treated in hospital for smoke inhalation and burns,” an immigration official said by phone.

A total of 55 migrants were in custody at the four-storey building at the time of the pre-dawn blaze. Twenty-eight were rescued by fire fighters.

Kim Dae-Joong, head of the Yeosu fire station, told journalists that many of the victims had died from inhaling toxic fumes.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known but police were investigating the possibility of arson, the Yonhap news agency reported.

“We don’t know whether the fire started because of electric short circuits or arson,” the immigration