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1974

Hotel fire ends in disaster in South Korea

On this day in 1974, a fire rages out of control in a hotel in South Korea, killing 88 people, most of whom were enjoying a late-night party in a club on the hotel’s top floor.

It was very early on a Sunday morning in the eastern part of downtown Seoul, when a guest staying on the sixth floor of a seven-story hotel fell asleep while smoking in bed. The resulting fire quickly spread through the floor. Thirteen guests died from suffocation or burns, and before long, the smoke and heat made their way toward the night club at the top of the building.

The nightclub was supposed to close at 2 a.m. according to local law, but more than 200 people were still dancing and drinking when the fire broke out an hour later. Although the club had fire exits, they were locked to prevent patrons from leaving without paying their bills. Panic ensued as people scrambled to find a way out amid the heavy smoke. Eight people found that the only exit was a window; they jumped and were killed by the fall.

Three hours later, when the fire was finally extinguished, firefighters recovered 64 bodies in the remains of the nightclub and another three on the roof of the hotel. The total casualty toll from the fire was 88; another 30 people had serious injuries. Because officials had failed to make proper inspections and had neglected to enforce fire safety laws, several regional authorities were fired in the aftermath of this disaster.

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