S. Korea calls for deadly roof collapse probe

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SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called on Tuesday for a full investigation into the collapse of a student-packed auditorium near the southern city of Gyeongju that killed at least 10 people and injured more than 100.

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More than 560 college students taking part in a freshman orientation were believed to have been attending a concert in the building when the roof caved in on Monday—apparently under the weight of heavy snow—at around 9:15 p.m.

The auditorium was part of a mountain resort complex near Gyeongju that had experienced unusually heavy snowfall in the preceding week.

“It is heart-rending that so many lives were sacrificed . . . a thorough investigation must be carried out,” Park told a cabinet meeting.

The resort auditorium was a pre-engineered building, assembled with rigid frames and sidewalls—of a type normally used for warehouses and aviation hangars.

Fire officials said the accumulated weight of the snow piled on the roof of the building appeared to have caused the structure to buckle, raising questions about its soundness.

Administration said 10 people, including nine students, were confirmed dead, with two more seriously injured and 101 others who suffered “bruises and cuts.”

Some parents of the victims voiced outrage, saying the organizers of the orientation event had failed to ensure the students’ safety.

“What on earth were they doing? They didn’t even bother to take a look at the site before pushing through with the event despite such heavy snowfalls,” a woman whose 18-year-old daughter was among the dead told Yonhap news agency.

One distraught father recalled how he had texted his daughter just a few hours before the accident to check that she was enjoying herself.

“I thought she was having so much fun that she didn’t have time to text me back . . . now I can’t even describe how I feel,” he said.

More than 1,400 rescuers and workers, backed by heavy equipment, had worked throughout the night under arc lights to clear the debris and snowfall to reach the victims.

AFP

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