A fire broke out at a lithium battery factory in South Korea on Monday, killing at least 16 people and five others are still missing, local firefighters said.

The fire, which was largely extinguished, occurred at a factory of battery maker Aricell in Hwaseong, south of the capital Seoul.

The fire started after a series of battery cells exploded inside a warehouse containing some 35,000 units, said Kim Jin-young, a local fire official. What triggered the explosion remains unclear, he added.

Yonhap News Agency earlier reported that around 20 bodies had been found inside the factory, but Kim told a televised news briefing that 16 people had died and two others had been seriously injured.

He said rescuers were trying to find the five missing people.

A Reuters witness saw firefighters removing up to six bodies from the factory, located in an industrial zone.

Created in 2020, Aricell manufactures primary lithium batteries for sensors and radiocommunication devices. It has 48 employees, according to its latest regulatory filing and its Linkedin profile.

Calls to Aricell’s offices went unanswered.

The company is not listed on the South Korean stock exchange but is majority-owned by S-Connect, according to Aricell’s regulatory filing. S-Connect is listed on the Kosdaq junior index and its shares closed down 22.5 percent.

Live television footage showed firefighters pulverizing the damaged steel and concrete building. Parts of the upper level had collapsed and large parts of the building appeared to have been thrown into the street by an explosion.


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